To activate the parasympathetic nervous system and improve recovery from exercise, we can take deep diaphragmatic breaths into our lower abdomen.
This type of slow controlled breathing can even give better recovery than just sitting and breathing normally.
2) Pain Sensitivity
Pain is a sensation that our brain creates to protect us from threats. Our initial response to a threat is to increase our breathing rate and muscular tension to protect ourselves and/or run away.
We even increase our sensitivity to pain in anticipation of a perceived threat. The body's ability to increase pain sensitivity serves as a protection mechanism to keep you safe from danger.
We may not be able to keep real threats from happening, but we can control our body's response to perceived threats. To do this we must activate our parasympathetic nervous system with slow controlled breaths.
Whim Hof has used these breathing techniques to withstand freezing temperatures without shivering or getting sick.
He has even climbed Mount Everest while only wearing shorts. This doesn't mean that we should sprint up a mountain naked, but it does exemplify the power that certain breathing techniques can have over our bodies.
These breathing techniques work by stimulating deep breathing in a controlled way that triggers the release of epinephrine and increases anti-inflammatory response.
Stress stimulates the release of glucocorticoids that increase energy while they impair our ability to form memories and retrieve memories.
This explains why we struggle to find the right answer when we are anxious during a test or a job interview.
Whether the stress is from a lion chasing us or a job interview, our bodies' react in the same way every time by releasing glucocorticoids.
These hormones prepare the body to fight or run, not to come up with the right answer to a question.
Meditation provides tons of benefits including increased prefrontal cortex thickness and function.
But it is hard for most of us to simply sit and meditate. Our minds are flooded with thoughts, emotions, and things to do.
Ten minutes feels like 100 minutes, but there is a way to make that 10 minutes into the most blissful experience of our day.
When we concentrate on deepening our breath, we create a relaxed state. In this relaxed state, we will be able to dissociate from our thoughts and emotions. This allows us to meditate easily and reap the benefits of meditation.
6) Digestive System Function
In a stressed state, all of our digestive processes are reduced. This is because our body is focused on removing the threat or removing ourselves from the threat.
Once there are no threats, our brain will allow us to rest and digest. This means that when we rush through our meals, we will make it harder for our bodies to digest food.
If we have prolonged stress, we can aggravate chronic diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and heartburn.
7) Joint Mobility
Some of the muscles that we use to breathe are also used during other movements.
This means that when we breathe rapidly into our chest, we can alter the function of our postural muscles.
The primary purpose of these muscles is to provide strength and stability to the bones and joints.
When the postural muscles are recruited to take on the task of breathing as well, they become stiff due to being overworked.
This will restrict joint motion in the joints that the overworked muscle effects.
8) Joint Stability
Many musculoskeletal injuries are caused by a lack of stability, especially in people with low back pain.
Spinal instability is commonly the result of shallow chest breathing patterns. When we breathe into our chest, diaphragm, deep core muscles, and back muscles do not activate effectively.
This creates instability of the spine that can lead to injury.
Ideally, our movements should be accompanied by diaphragmatic breaths.
During inhalation, the diaphragm is designed to contract to bring air in, while it simultaneously creates spinal stability.
During exhalation, the deep postural muscles of our back and core activate to create stability.
The acuity of our senses changes throughout the day. One of the causes of the change in our sensory acuity is the state of our nervous system.
When we are in a stressful state, we tend to overwhelm ourselves with past regrets and future concerns. This significantly reduces our sensory acuity.
Taking deep breaths will indirectly increase our sensory acuity by keeping our attention on the present moment.
When we focus on something in the present moment like our breathing, we can bring ourselves back to what's happening now instead of stressing about the past or future.
10) Neck Issues
Neck pain is correlated with breathing dysfunction. It may seem strange to us at first, but with a deeper understanding of a dysfunctional breathing pattern we can easily find out why it correlates with neck pain.
Dysfunctional breathing is commonly characterized by a shallow inhale into the chest that causes the shoulders to raise toward the ears.
During this type of breathing pattern, muscles around the neck, activate to pull the shoulders up when these muscles would normally be relaxed.