Madrona Nutrition and Fitness: Recipe and Nutrition Guide

Madrona Nutrition and Fitness:
Guide to Wellness through Holistic Diet
and Lifestyle

Rachel Fiske
Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant,
Certified Personal Trainer

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Importance of Deep Breathing

Hello lovely blog-followers and happy July! Today, I'd like to talk about
something that is truly not to be underestimated….DEEP BREATHING!

The importance of this exercise has come up in several conversations
recently, and is a critical topic to consider and practice every day.
It seems to me that the idea of deep breathing, taking even just 5-10
minutes each day to engage in deep belly (aka, diaphragmatic)
breathing, is something that is seen as too simple to really make that
much of a difference. I mean, in order to truly relax and slow our
minds down, don’t we have to take a vacation? Or at least survive the
week until the glorious freedom of Friday night-Sunday is upon us?
Well, I for one don’t want to spend 5 days per week in a constant
state of high-alert where my stress hormones are running wild causing
my digestion to be off, mood to be unstable, sleep to suffer, and
other fun-filled symptoms. Deep breathing is really not as easy as we
might think, as we tend to live in a this state of perpetual
non-relaxation, and actually need to intentionally train our bodies
and minds to sit for even 5 minutes and focus solely on our breath.

So…what is actually happening in the body and what does deep breathing do??

Great question, Rachel. Thanks guys. Our nervous system has two states
of being: parasympathetic and sympathetic. The sympathetic nervous
system is our fight or flight response, it is where we live when we
are on high alert, running from the tiger, needing adrenaline for
survival. When in this state, we cannot digest, for example, because
blood is being diverted to more important tasks. It is crucial and
truly amazing that our body is able to kick into this gear, and
essential for human survival. In a training I attended recently, the
presenter suggested a humorous example of a caveman walking through
the forest, hearing a rustling in the bushes, and instead of being on
guard that that sound might be a lion, thinking to himself, “oh, I
wonder if that’s my friend Hank!” Thankfully, the brain is smart
enough to not make life-compromising assumptions.

The parasympathetic nervous system is, on the contrary, what allows
our body to relax, it is our ‘rest and digest’ mode. It also is
responsible for bodily functions such as salivation, sexual arousal,
urination and defecation. We cannot effectively do these things in the
sympathetic mode.

Since we are rarely actually running from a tiger anymore these days,
our sympathetic nervous system now gets turned to a perpetual state of
‘on’ due to our high stress, busy lives, and it is of utmost
importance that we learn how to switch it to ‘off,’ and deep breathing
is a great tool.

So with that said, please read below to learn a technique for deep
breathing, or engage in any type of meditation you may prefer. However
you do it, remember that is really is a practice not to be

Benefits of Deep Breathing:

● Has a relaxing, calming, and centering effect on the mind
● Enables for more restful and deeper sleep
● Encourages proper breathing from the diaphragm
● Oxygenates the blood
● Clears residual carbon dioxide from the lungs

Deep Breathing Technique:

Start by sitting comfortably in a crossed legged position, or laying flat on the
back. Close your eyes, straighten your spine, elongate your neck, relax your
face and body.

1) Inhale through your nose, focusing on filling the belly with your breath
as if it is a balloon; exhale, expelling all breath from your belly through your
nose, pulling in the stomach to make sure it is empty of air. Watch that your
breathing is smooth and relaxed, without any strain. Repeat several times,
and then move on to the next type of breath.

2) Perform the next inhale like the one before, except, when the belly is full
of air, breath in a little more so the air enters the lower chest. Focusing
on expanding the rib cage. Exhale from the chest first, then exhale
from the belly as described for the previous type of breath. Repeat this for
several times before transitioning to the third and final type of breath.

3) Inhale into the belly, then lower chest, then upper chest focusing on
expanding and lifting your collarbones. Exhale through the nose, from
the upper chest first, then lower chest, then the belly. Continue this for ten

Key Points

Imagine there is a balloon inside of your diaphram. When you inhale the
balloon starts to expand from the base of the belly up to the collarbones.
When exhaling the air is released from the top of the collarbones to the
bottom of the belly.

Belly - Rib Cage – Collarbones

The best times to utilize 3 part breath is before meals to calm and center the
Central Nervous System. This can help with over eating. Also, before bed to
relax the mind, clear out negative thoughts and ease anxiety.

Try practicing this breath in your daily life, sitting at the computer,
walking, cooking, or even while in the shower!