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Long Deep Breathing for Stress

We can reduce stress and improve our emotional well-being by practicing yogic breathing. Yogis have taken advantage of the calming effects of the breath for thousands of years and Western medicine is finally catching up!

The practice of yoga is an ancient tradition that endorses the practice of regulating the breath to achieve peace of mind and physical health. Yogis refer to the breath as prana, which is known as the “cosmic life force”. It is well documented in yogic scriptures that pranayam or breathing exercises have the capacity to create inner peace and calm. According to the venerable Yoga Sutras of Patanjail, “calm is retained by controlled exhalation or retention of the breath”. Although many people think of stretching and headstands when they think of yoga, it is breathing mindfully that is the most important yoga exercise.

Although this is ancient yogic wisdom, it is relevant today. When we are anxious, our breath becomes rapid and shallow. When we are calm, our breath moves more slowly and deeply. Without our breath, we cease to exist. When we are anxious, just taking a few deep breaths will help us relax. Many traditions of yoga provide instruction on how to regulate our breath to achieve a more prolonged peaceful and calm state.

Modern day medical researchers are finding that breathing practices are now backing what yogis have known all along, that breathing practices improve our well-being. In their book The Healing Power of the Breath, Richard Brown, MD and Patricia Gerbard, MD outline how yogic breathing can help to reduce negative emotions, improve sleep, and decrease stress. A study conducted by Ma et al. found that deep diaphragmatic breathing decreased cortisol which is a hormone released during periods of heightened stress. The researchers also found that deep breathing decreased depression and anxiety, and improved attention and concentration. There are many more studies which note the beneficial aspects of yogic breathing which I will highlight in future blogs, so please stay tuned!

Now that you know about the ancient practices of yoga and the medical benefits, it’s time to see for yourself! The following video will demonstrate how to practice long deep breathing in order to reduce stress and to calm the mind.

Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2012). The healing power of the breath: simple techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration, and balance your emotions. Boston: Shambhala.

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., & Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 874.

Satchidananda, & Patañjali . (2012). Integral yoga: the yoga sutras of Patanjali. Yogaville, VA: Integral Yoga Publications.

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