Deep breathing is more than just a matter of survival, according to Wim Hof. Pretty strange, coming from an extreme athlete who first set the world record for the longest swim under ice.
Yet Hof speaks the truth.
Though nothing like his other accomplishments, Wim Hof also holds the record of being my first ever guest on Quite Franklin.
Naturally, I took every minute of his time to understand the science and art of deep breathing from a true master.
Breathing is something we take for granted. The EPA estimates the average person draws somewhere between 17,000 to 23,000 breaths a day!
Yet, ask yourself – when was the last time you took a deep breath?
In case you are wondering, most people are shallow breathers. This means short shallow breaths from the chest cavity.
Deep breathers on the other hand, breathe from their stomachs. Their belly expands and the lungs inhale a bigger volume of air.
Besides being a more efficient method of breathing, Hof is confident that deep breathing can also manipulate the nervous system and even influence the body’s physiological response.
Though many of us don’t intend to push our bodies to the limit, there are still plenty of powerful life-changing benefits from deep breathing.
Deep Breathing Detoxifies The Body
During deep breathing, your diaphragm expands. This stimulates the lymphatic system which is responsible for detoxifying the body.
It is important for the lymphatic system to be active, as a poorly functioning lymphatic system can block the elimination of toxins. This can cause other health problems, like high blood pressure, weight gain and fatigue.
In addition, deep breathing allows for fresh oxygen to enter the lungs, and expels carbon dioxide and other natural toxins from the lungs. Since the blood is oxygenated, it can better carry and absorb nutrients more efficiently. Both actions result in an overall detoxifying effect on the body.
Researchers even tested Hof’s deep breathing techniques on twelve volunteers, and amazingly, they successfully resisted inflammation from an injected toxin!
Deep Breathing Helps Us To Relax And Reduce Stress
If you feel stress or anxious, try deep breathing. It will slow down your heart rate, calm your mind and help you relax.
Stressful thoughts may cause the body to go into a “fight or flight” mode. The brain releases the stress hormone cortisol, and your body’s nervous system triggers the adrenal glands to release adrenaline into the bloodstream. This increases your blood pressure, pulse rate and causes a tightening sensation in the chest.
Deep breathing can provide instant relief to these symptoms. Firstly, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which drops your heart rate, improves circulation and lowers your blood pressure. Next, it signals the body to release endorphins, a feel good hormone which naturally counteracts the effects of cortisol.
The more you breathe deep, the more oxygen you take in, and the more relaxed you will become.
Deep Breathing Boosts Your Body’s Recovery
Deep breathing helps you relax naturally and can vastly improve your body’s recovery.
Breathing shallowly and quickly over-excites your nervous system and puts it in a state of heightened alert. Long deep breaths slows the heart rate down and releases endorphins into the bloodstream. This helps to calm the body and combat pain during stressful moments.
Hof has demonstrated the power of deep breathing through his incredible feats of endurance.
The increased circulation from deep breathing relaxes the body. This reduces lactic acid build-up in the muscles. It further puts your mind into a state of calm and your body performs better as a result.
High intensity exercise strains your oxygen supply. Through regular deep breathing, you can recover faster and gradually increase the intensity of work you can perform.
Deep Breathing Helps To Lower Your Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that deep breathing exercises, performed five minutes a day for six days a week, can actually lower your blood pressure and improve heart health.
The way we breathe is key to how our body regulates blood pressure. Though blood pressure varies throughout the day, it can cause problems and damage the heart if it stays at high levels constantly.
Deep breathing and regular aerobic exercise is the best way to maintain cardiovascular health and blood pressure.
About 65% of adults over 50 in the United States suffer from high blood pressure, but less than 40% of them meet the recommended aerobic exercises guidelines from the CDC.
Deep breathing relaxes the muscles and dilates your blood vessels. This improves circulation, slows the heart rate down, oxygenates the blood and lowers your blood pressure.
A Fast And Simple Deep Breathing Technique
That said, here is a quick step by step guide on deep breathing.
First, you want to lie comfortably down on your bed. Make sure your back is flat and your body is relaxed.
Next, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
Breathe in deeply through your nose. As you inhale, try to push the hand that is on your belly outwards and expand your stomach. The hand that is on your chest should remain still.
Hold that breath for a second. Then exhale slowly through your nose or lips. Your stomach should flatten, and your hand will fall back down with it.
Repeat for 5-10 times.