The Benefits of Conscious Breathing
We have all been inhaling and exhaling since we made our introduction into this world. Breathing is truly the essence of all life. And still we tend to take it for granted. While the act of Breath-Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years by Yogis and Buddhists, it is only recently that the scientific community is making the connection between our health and controlled breathing.
For your brain…
The act of concentrating on our breath has long been believed to provide cognitive benefits and is a simple and effective way to minimise stress, anxiety and negative emotions. But studies are now showing for the first time that there is a direct neurophysiological link between our respiration and cognition. Breathing directly affects the levels of noradrenaline - the natural chemical messenger in our brain. This messenger is essentially a fertiliser that helps our brain grow new connections, can enhance our attention and boosts our overall brain health. These findings could have huge implications into brain ageing. Though brains lose mass as we get older, it has been found that people who have practiced meditation longterm have more “youthful” brains. Not only do younger brains have a reduced risk of dementia but the breath-mindfulness techniques actually strengthen our brain’s networks.
For your heart…
There is also recent research that suggests breathing can improve our cardiovascular health. Deep or slow breathing is able to regulate our blood pressure and control it from spiking. Simply by slowing our breathing during a stressful situation, we increase our baroreflex sensitivity which in turn regulates our blood pressure by lowering the heart rate. Over time, the practice of controlled breathing to lower our pressure and heart rate may lead to a lower risk of stroke and cerebral aneurysm, and generally decrease stress on our blood vessels.
For your memory…
In 2016, a study of our breathing showed that the rhythm of our inhalation and exhalation generates electrical activity in the brain that influences how well we remember. Participants were able to recall certain memories better while inhaling. Different types of memories were recalled when breathing through the nose or the mouth. Researchers believe that inhaling is linked to our brain’s hippocampus - the section of the brain that is responsible for establishing long-term memories and possibly also recalling our memories.
For your emotions…
Though the results are preliminary, a recent study shows that controlling breathing by counting the in and out breaths influences neurons throughout our brain, but especially those that relate to our emotions. The study asked participants to count how many breaths they took for a short period - just two minutes. This caused the participants to hyper-focus their attention on their breathing. While counting, their brain activity related to emotion, memory and awareness showed a more organised pattern than is usual in the brain’s typical resting state. These findings are beginning to prove that breathing can tap into a much deeper part of the brain.
The importance of breath workouts is becoming the most recent health trend to go mainstream. Along with several other health experts, BECYCLE founder Gundula Cöllen was recently featured in Harper’s Bazaar explaining the many benefits of this groundbreaking trend. So the next time your instructor tells you to breathe deep, for the sake of your long-term health… just do it!
BECYCLE offers a variety of yoga classes daily and breathing workshops on a regular basis. Sign up for a class here to enjoy the benefits of conscious breathing!
Article written by Tonia Brow
Tonia is a BECYCLE member who loves Barre and Yoga classes. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and ethical vegan. When she isn't working or working out, you'll find her exploring the city, finding the best vegan food in Berlin and hanging out with her dog Violet.