When we’re relaxed, we breathe in and out of our noses slowly, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and takes the body out of fight or flight.
Belly breathing benefits include:
Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
Improved oxygen exchange
Increased feelings of focus and calm
That’s not all. Belly breathing benefits may even include emotional boosts, according to recent research.
Breathing Patterns and Their Corresponding Emotions
The phrase “take a deep breath” is actually backed by more science than you may think.
Studies showthat different emotions are associated with different breathing patterns. In turn, changing our breathing patterns influences how we feel.
If you feel anxious, your breathing becomes irregular, fast, and shallow. However, feelings of calm and happiness are associated with deep, slow breathing.
When you feel mental stress but shift your breathing toward a deep, slow pattern, you will eventually begin to experience the corresponding emotions.
Changing your breathing pattern slows down your heart rate and sends signals to the brain and body to relax. This process is kicked off by stimulating the vagus nerve.
This nerve runs from the brain stem down into the abdomen and has a huge influence on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest and digest.
Moreover, slow, deep breathing is associated with nasal breathing, which releases nitric oxide into the lungs.
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator. This miracle molecule dilates blood vessels, improves oxygen absorption, and plays a vital role in promoting calming feelings.
Recent experiments published in Harvard Business Reviewmeasured the impact of a specific type of breathwork that is part of a technique called SKY Breath Meditation.
This method combines a series of breathing exercises with meditation practices that were created to invoke feelings of calm and resilience.
Participants in the study were either assigned to a breathing program or a control group. The participants who were part of the SKY Breath Meditation group reported the greatest mental health benefits.
These participants marked improved social connections, increased positive emotions, enhanced mindfulness, and lowered feelings of stress and depression.
A second study from the University of Arizonazeroed in on SKY Breath Meditation, comparing it to more conventional stress-relief practices that focused on changing the mindset surrounding stress.
Although both workshops were found to improve feelings of social connectedness, SKY Breathing was found to provide more immediate improvements in stress and mood.
Furthermore, the positive effects of continuous SKY Breathing were even more notable when measured three months later.
The SKY Breathing group had steady breathing and heart rates when faced with high-pressure, stressful situations, while the group that went through the cognitive workshop showed elevated breathing and heart rates, indicating feelings of stress.
SKY Breathing has proven benefits. But what exactly is it?
How to Practice Stress-Relieving Breathwork
As we mentioned before, SKY Breath Meditation combines breathwork with meditation practices.
This is based on Sudarshan kriya yoga, giving it the name SKY.
While there are many guided videosthat demonstrate how to practice SKY breathing, learning how to belly breathe is a great place to start.