What are the benefits of Belly Breathing, and why do we suggest it to most of our patients?

What exactly are the benefits of Belly Breathing? Why do we need to do it, and how do we ensure we breathe deeply into our bellies? Keep reading…

Diaphragmatic breathing

Deep belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a breathing technique that involves engaging the diaphragm. This is a large muscle located at the base of the lungs. This type of breathing is considered important and beneficial for several reasons, including its impact on stress hormones and the release of “happy hormones” or neurotransmitters.

When we engage in deep belly breathing, we take slow, deep breaths, expanding our diaphragm and filling our lungs with more air. This activates the body’s relaxation response and triggers a cascade of physiological changes that help reduce stress and promote overall well-being.

Reduce Stress

One of the primary benefits of deep belly breathing is its ability to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream. When we are stressed, our body enters a state of “fight-or-flight” response, where stress hormones are released. Deep belly breathing activates the body’s relaxation response and counters the effects of stress. This helps to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and promote a sense of calm and relaxation. 

In addition to reducing stress hormones, deep belly breathing also promotes the release of happy hormones or neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating mood, pleasure, and overall well-being. By engaging in deep belly breathing, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and relaxation. This activation leads to the release of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which contribute to feelings of happiness, contentment, and relaxation.

A recent systematic review explained the benefits of deep breathing as;

  • Stress reduction: Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to activate the body’s relaxation response, leading to a reduction in stress levels. This response helps to decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
  • Anxiety and mood improvement: Deep belly breathing has been found to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and improve mood. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response) and promotes a sense of calmness and well-being.
  • Blood pressure regulation: Regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to help regulate blood pressure. By inducing relaxation and reducing stress, it contributes to the reduction of high blood pressure, promoting cardiovascular health.
  • Pain management: Deep belly breathing techniques have been found to be beneficial in managing various types of pain, including chronic pain conditions. The relaxation response induced by diaphragmatic breathing helps to alleviate pain sensations and promote overall comfort.
  • Respiratory function improvement: Since diaphragmatic breathing involves the active engagement of the diaphragm muscle, it strengthens the diaphragm and improves lung function. This can be particularly helpful for individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Sleep quality enhancement: Practicing diaphragmatic breathing before bedtime has been shown to improve sleep quality. It helps to induce a state of relaxation, reduce racing thoughts, and promote a restful sleep.

An easy technique for Belly Breathing

A common breathing exercise that incorporates deep belly breathing is the box belly breath. The routine for the box belly breath involves the following steps:

  1. Hold your breath for a brief pause of two seconds.
  2. Find a comfortable sitting or lying position and close your eyes if you prefer.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, expanding your belly as you fill your lungs with air. Count to four during the inhalation.
  4. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth, contracting your belly as you release the air. Count to six during the exhalation.
  5. your breath again for a brief pause of two seconds.
  6. Repeat the cycle, starting with the inhalation, for several minutes.

The box belly breath routine helps to regulate and balance your breathing pattern, allowing you to take slow, deep breaths and engage the diaphragm effectively. This rhythmic breathing pattern aids in activating thee relaxation response, reducing stress hormones, and promoting the release of happy hormones.

Man demonstrating how to breathe deeply into the belly to achieve the benefits of belly breathing.
Breathing in
Man demonstrating how to breathe out fully to achieve the benefits of belly breathing.
Breathing out

Practising the box belly breath routine regularly, especially during moments of stress or as part of daily mindfulness practice, can profoundly affect your overall well-being, helping you manage stress, enhance relaxation, and promote a positive mood.

Published on June 8, 2023