What is deep abdominal breathing?

Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

We often hear the word "deep" used to describe particularly long, slow breaths. Describing this type of breathing in this way reflects how we typically breathe in any given day: with short, frequent, shallow breaths. We breathe many times a minute, and come nowhere near to using the full capacity of our lungs. By not breathing in such a shallow way, we must be taking deep breaths, right?

In taking longer, slower breaths, we use much if not the entire capacity of the lungs. But rather than be deep breathing in relation to shallow breathing, it's the type of breathing we would benefit from practicing all of the time. By using the full capacity of the lungs, we train our lungs to be more efficient in inhaling oxygen that can be delivered to our body's many trillions of cells. With a more efficient delivery system, each of those cells can function better. And with greater functioning cells we enjoy greater health.

Taking long, slow breaths isn't deep breathing. It's full breathing. It's the breathing that will sustain our health over time.

For years, women have practiced slow, patterned breathing techniques to help keep them focus on labor. This deep abdominal breathing actually alters your psychological state, making a painful moment diminish in intensity. If you measured your heart rate at a time when you were completely overwhelmed with stress, and then measured it again after doing ten minutes of deep abdominal breathing, I think you’d be convinced of the physiological transformation that takes place. Researchers know that the brain makes its own morphine-like pain relievers, called endorphins and enkephalins. These hormones are associated with a happy, positive feeling and can help pain messages from reaching the brain. During deep abdominal breathing, you will add oxygen to the blood and cause your body to release endorphins, while decreasing the release of stress hormones and slowing down your heart rate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.