When we think about our respiratory health, our minds tend to gravitate towards our lungs, whether or not we have a cough, or if our noses are stuffy. We don’t often wonder about things like our muscles, how tired we are, or whether or not our stomach hurts.
Recent studies, however, show that our respiratory health can affect inflammation in our bodies and that there are ways to help combat the inflammation with simple breathing techniques.
We know that stress can affect our bodies in all sorts of adverse ways, but did you know that it can result in inflammation? Studies show that high levels of stress over an extended time can result in the body being unable to regulate inflammation. This is because stress increases levels of cortisol in the body, a hormone that helps to regulate inflammation. When the balance gets thrown off by stress, inflammation can flare-up.
Symptoms of Inflammation
Symptoms of inflammation may be difficult to spot since it’s not just about swollen fingers and sore muscles. Other symptoms of inflammation can include:
- Stomach pain
- Joint pain
- Mouth sores
- Immobility in an inflamed area of the body
Breathing and Inflammation
Now that we know that stress can lead to increased inflammation in the body, we know how to address it better. Naturally, the answer is to decrease our levels of stress, which is easier said than done. However, our respiratory systems may play a vital role in the process.
You’ve probably heard anyone who regularly practices yoga say that it decreases their stress levels, and the claim has now been proven to be biologically accurate.
Yogic breathing, correctly, has been shown to not only decrease stress in self-reporting surveys, but it has also been shown to decrease the number of pro-inflammatory biomarkers that researchers found in participants’ saliva.
Breath Exercises to Reduce Inflammation
Traditional yogic breathing techniques, or rhythmic breathing, are known as “pranayama.” The same study that discovered the connection between breath and inflammation found that just 20 minutes of yogic breathing a day decreased levels of stress and inflammation biomarkers in those who participated.
Steps for Rhythmic Breathing
The great thing about using the breath to reduce stress and inflammation in the body is that anybody can do it, almost anywhere.
It’s best to find a quiet place where you’ll be left undisturbed and able to focus, preferably in a comfortable spot, but even if you’re sitting in your car in the parking lot, you can practice this technique. Follow these steps:
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath, without trying to breathe in any specific way
- Inhale through your nose, count to four, filling your lungs from the bottom to the top
- Exhale through your nose, count to four, emptying your lungs from top to bottom
- Repeat ten times
- Now try inhaling through your nose for four counts, holding your breath for four counts, and then exhaling for another four counts
- Repeat ten times
It’s that easy to use your breath for stress and inflammation reduction. Remember, this is an ongoing practice, and it’s best to stick with it regularly, for twenty minutes a day. You’ll be amazed at the results.