Blog and video about Deep breathing by Vlaar & Vlaar

At the beginning of March I started to do the basic exercises of "deep breathing" daily, preferably 3 times for 10 minutes. Because I noticed that I often breathe too high and shallow; and this made me feel stressed again with a lot of tension on the stomach.

Since my intestines and digestion have always been a weak point, I thought it would be a good idea to experience the benefit of deeper breathing. And also to investigate what other benefits good breathing can bring to health.

And with the now circulating Corona virus, stress reduction has become even more important. Stress undermines the immune system, so that the Corona virus can get more hold on your body.

If you prefer to read the video about it or listen to the podcast instead, click on the links in the text above.

Deep breathing, what is it?

Deep breathing is also called abdominal breathing. Breathing deeply lowers your diaphragm, expands your ribs, and creates more space for your lungs to fill with air. By mastering the art of deep breathing, more oxygen flows through your body. This ultimately causes your heart to slow down and create a feeling of relaxation and tranquility.

Doing 5 to 10 minutes of deep breathing exercises a few times a day can help reduce stress, relax your body and mind, and improve sleep.

Breathing deeply with your belly is the basis of all meditation and relaxation techniques, which lower stress levels, lower blood pressure and regulate other important body processes.

From research it appears that the frequency of 6 breaths per minute has the most relaxing effect. Give it a try, it is quite slow. It is good to inhale 3 counts and then let the exhalation last for 7 counts. So the exhalation lasts about twice as long as the inhalation.

It also works the other way around. When we experience stress, pain, or feelings of fear or anger, we tend to breathe shallowly and tense our muscles. Our body and brain therefore receive too little oxygen. Deep breathing helps to reverse this process so that your body (and mind) releases tension and calms down. And when our mind is calmer, this improves the learning ability, concentration, memory and the sleep.

Exercise: how do you do this deep abdominal breathing?

After reading this article, are you convinced of the benefit of deep breathing? And do you want to get started with it yourself? The exercise below will help you with this. If you find the exercise difficult while sitting, you can also do it lying in bed.

  1. Sit on a chair with your back straight against the backrest and both feet on the floor.
  2. Place your left hand on your chest, and your right hand near your belly button on your stomach.
  3. Try to send your inhalation lower into your body and towards your navel, so that the belly comes out. Inhale through the nose. When you feel like you are choking, you are breathing in too much and too high.
  4. With exhalation, move your navel, without forcing anything, to slowly move towards the spine.
  5. The hand on your stomach moves with the rhythm of breathing; the hand on your chest, moves very little.
  6. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. After a while, you will likely notice that your breathing becomes calmer and slower. See if you can consciously make abdominal breathing even calmer and slower.
  8. If this goes well, try to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. So with a three-second inhalation, you exhale for about six to seven seconds.

Want a helping hand by getting a reminder. You can set this with the (paid) app Vagusvit. You can also determine the respiration rate yourself, such as 6 times per minute. If you have a smartwatch, chances are that you already have an app for this.

The benefits of deep breathing at a glance

  • Breathing deeply increases energy

Oxygen is the most essential nutrient for our body cells. We can go without food for up to 40 days and without water for 3 days, but without oxygen we will die within a few minutes. In other words breath = life.

Our body cells contain small energy factories, the mitochondria. Only with oxygen can these mitochondria efficiently produce a lot of energy. In the absence of oxygen, our muscles quickly acidify and we get muscle pain. You know that, for example, when you run and are not yet trained, you often get pain in your side and also more muscle pain.

In addition, it is often said that diseases, such as cancer, thrive especially in a body that is acidified. Deep breathing reduces the acidity of the body and thus makes it more basic. Stress also makes the body more acidic. So good breathing reduces stress and acidity.

  • Breathing deeply calms the nervous system

You may have noticed that yourself, that you feel a soothing effect in your body so quickly when you take a deep breath. This is because deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes the body to relax. This is the part of the central nervous system that causes the body to relax.

Often we just thunder all day long. This deep breathing allows us to regain access to this parasympathetic nervous system and to relax again. This takes place via a very important cranial nerve, the vagus nerve, which provides communication with the diaphragm (and therefore breathing!) And all kinds of abdominal organs.

It works opposite to the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight-flight response. Shallow breathing therefore brings our body into a fight-flight status.

  • Breathing deeply improves digestion

As you could read before, deep abdominal breathing activates the vagus nerve. The same vagus nerve also causes nerve signals to be sent back and forth between the brain and intestines.

What you see is that with a lot intestinal and digestive problems en inflammatory diseases of the gut, such as Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis, the vagus nerve is often inactive. Digestion even reduces or stops during stress. The deep abdominal breathing ensures a calmer nervous system and thus better digestion.

  • Breathing deeply stimulates the lymphatic system

You hear more and more often that people detox for a week to work out all kinds of toxins in the body. This is done through the lymphatic system, among other things. And hey , surprise, we can take a deep breath to stimulate the lymphatic system.

The circulation of the lymph fluid is not automatic, but depends on breathing, movement by muscles and gravity. Funnily enough, it works very well on a trampoline.

Conversely, shallow breathing causes a slow-functioning lymphatic system that does not detoxify properly. As a result, the other detoxification systems also have to work harder to get rid of toxins. Deep breathing makes your lymph system work more efficiently and thereby protects the body better against germs and other health risks.

  • Deep breathing improves the cardiovascular system

Deep abdominal breathing massages the heart and improves blood circulation to the heart, liver, brain and genitals. It makes for one lower blood pressureslower heart rate and less irregular heartbeat. Give it a try if you notice your heart pounding when you are in a stressful situation. I am sure you feel that decreasing when you go to a deep breath.

Want a helping hand by getting a reminder. You can set this with the (paid) app Vagusvit. You can also determine the respiration rate yourself, such as 6 times per minute. If you have a smartwatch, chances are that you already have an app for this.

Personal note:

As you can see, good, conscious and deep breathing has many benefits for your entire health. Taking the time to do these breathing exercises for 3 to 5 minutes about 10 times a day has brought me a lot of peace.

As human beings it's normal that at the beginning we do not always succeed in doing the exercises 3 times a day. I notice that it becomes easier when I can build in this exercise during another, more “passive” activity. Such as driving or watching TV. And because of Corona crisis I am now less in the car, but once or twice a day I often succeed. In any case, I have noticed that it works quite quickly and reduces stress. Actually, this is such a simple exercise that brings so much. And it costs nothing. What else do you want.

Also listen to our deep breathing video:

Jocelyn Vlaar (ToHealth!) and Sonja Vlaar (Attune) are cousins ​​of each other and are both very eager to learn. They are constantly looking for new and better ways to deal with stress and to stay healthy and fit mentally and physically. As an orthomolecular therapist, Jocelyn emphasizes the effect of stress and nutrition on the physical body; As an executive coach, Sonja emphasizes the relationship between stress, behavior and the brain.