Science & Research Behind Mindful Breathing & Lengthening Your Exhalation
Breathing, it seems so straightforward, doesn't it? Inhale, exhale, and repeat—a process that unfolds effortlessly, occurring more than 23,000 times daily, often without conscious consideration. Yet, can we elevate our breathing to a higher level of effectiveness? Science says yes.
What you'll find on this page:
• How to breathe better.
• Why does the slow exhale work?
• How to breathe better with the Breath Vessel.
• Neuroscience Breathing Basics
• Sympathetic nervous system vs. Parasympathetic nervous system
• How does the Vagus Nerve impact breathing?
• What does breathing better do to the brain?
• In English, please: Inhale is the gas pedal. Exhale is the brake.
• How to reset your nervous system naturally.
• How to practice breathing better daily.
• Why don't they teach us how to breathe?
• How to breathe properly.
• 3 reasons we should inhale through the nose.
How to breathe better.
Unlocking the key to improved breathing is remarkably straightforward: slowing or lengthening your exhale.
When you find yourself grappling with anxiety or stress, try this: take a deep inhalation through your nose, followed by a deliberate, long exhale. This straightforward action effectively turns off the stress switch and activates the relaxation response.
The Breath Vessel makes it even easier.
What's the Secret Behind the Efficacy of the Slow Exhale?Behind this simple technique lies a wealth of scientific explanation, which we delve into more extensively below. However, if you're eager for an immediate remedy and wish to start experiencing the benefits right away, here's why the slow exhale is so effective:
- It sends a reassuring message to your nervous system.
- It deactivates the fight-or-flight response.
- It activates the rest and digest response.
Start your transformative breathing journey today with the Breath Vessel.
How to Improve Your Breathing with the Breath Vessel
Our resources are filled with valuable insights, and it's common to absorb more than you can remember. Don't let the volume overwhelm you; let it encourage you to start a mindful breathing practice.
When we first dove into the world of breathwork, it felt like trying to drink from a firehose. But here's the beauty of it: you can start right now, and you'll feel the benefits almost immediately. The more you stick with it, the better you'll feel.
That's why the Breath Vessel is so effective. It not only helps you find calm in the midst of anxiety or stress but also reminds you to make breathing a regular part of your routine. The Breath Vessel is always by your side, discreet and simple to use—no Wi-Fi, no need to step outside. You can take a breath break anywhere, anytime, thanks to the Breath Vessel.
Neuroscience of Breathing Simplified
This information is here for those who seek it, without any pressure. The key takeaway for experiencing better breathing? Deepen and slow down your exhale.
Our nervous system comprises two main components:
- Central Nervous System: Comprising the brain and spinal cord.
- Peripheral Nervous System: A network of nerves branching from the spinal cord throughout the body.
The peripheral nervous system breaks down into two primary branches:
- Somatic Nervous System: Handling conscious, voluntary actions and reflexes—motor neurons and sensory neurons come into play. Think walking, smelling, talking.
- Autonomic Nervous System: Manages involuntary functions like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion, and more.
Feeling overwhelmed by this intricate network? Don't worry; here's the essence of it all: our nervous system controls both the things we can consciously influence and those we can't.
Within the autonomic nervous system, there are three distinct divisions:
- Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): Governs fear and stress responses—the famous fight-or-flight sensation.
- Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): Orchestrates rest and digest functions, conserving energy during relaxation and maintaining balance.
- Enteric: Regulates digestive function, specifically managing water and electrolyte movements in the gut.
Stay with us; the anatomy lesson is nearing its end.
Sympathetic Nervous System vs. Parasympathetic Nervous System
|Sympathetic Nervous System||Parasympathetic Nervous System|
|Initiates Fight or Flight Mode||Initiates Rest, Digest, and Recharge Mode|
|OBJECTIVE: Prepare the body for stress or danger by prioritizing vital functions.||OBJECTIVE: Guide the body back to a state of tranquility and optimal functioning.|
|MECHANISM: Accelerates heart rate, readies muscles, widens pupils, opens airways, releases adrenaline and glycogen, slows down digestion, releases epinephrine and norepinephrine.||MECHANISM: Slows heart rate, eases muscle tension, constricts pupils, boosts saliva for digestion, narrows airways, stimulates digestion.|
|Engaged when confronted with a thrilling roller coaster ride or a sudden emergency.||Activated during a serene beach walk as gentle waves caress your feet.|
|Engaged when your breathing remains shallow and rapid.||Activated when you consciously take measured, calming breaths.|
|Engaged when faced with a demanding, high-pressure work task.||Activated when you find profound peace and contentment in meditation.|
Understanding the Vagus Nerve's Impact on Breathing
The vagus nerve, a vital component of the parasympathetic nervous system, plays a pivotal role in connecting our body's vital organs—like the gut, liver, heart, and lungs—to the brain.
Here's the key: the vagus nerve oversees essential bodily functions such as digestion, heart rate regulation, respiratory control, and reflexes like coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting.
By engaging the vagus nerve, you essentially signal to your body that it's time to unwind and shed stress, paving the way for sustained improvements in mood, overall well-being, and resilience.
However, there's a catch: think of it as a highway system. There's a robust four-lane highway carrying signals from the body to the brain, but only a two-lane route for signals to travel from the brain to the body.
This can lead to a predicament where initial stress signals sent to the brain can trigger a stress response, even when there's no real cause for concern. And when the "all-clear" signal attempts to return to the body, it encounters a traffic jam. The result? Unnecessary stress and anxiety.
But here's the solution: when you intentionally slow down your exhale, you activate the vagus nerve, setting off the parasympathetic nervous system. This shift reduces anxiety and brings serenity to the mind.
If this is all too much, here is a simple message to remember: a slow exhale equals a positive outcome. Shallow breathing is undesirable. Instead, deepen your inhale and slow down your exhale for a more peaceful state of being.
How to Naturally Restore Your Nervous System
The most straightforward method is a lengthened exhalation.
Have you ever wondered about sighs and yawns?
They're the body's natural reset mechanisms, subtle prompts that tell us, "It's time you prioritize better breathing." Unfortunately, we often overlook these cues.
The optimal approach to reset your nervous system is to integrate these automatic resets into your daily routine, infusing them with intention.
Method for Daily Breath Improvement
Set a timer for every 60 minutes. When the timer signals, dedicate 2-5 minutes to mindful breathing. Take a deliberate, deep inhalation, followed by a prolonged, slowed exhale. Implement this practice throughout the day and observe its transformative impact on your anxiety and stress levels.
Why Isn't Breathing Taught as a Vital Skill?
Raise your hand if you recall being taught how to breathe in school. We delve into the fundamentals of mathematics, grammar, biology, and even cooking in various courses. However, what about the fundamental skill of sustaining life? We firmly believe that breathing should top that list.
So, consider this our condensed course on proper breathing techniques.
Proper Breathing Techniques
With a few simple adjustments to the rhythm and mechanics of your breath, you can immediately start breathing properly and reap the benefits.
To fully appreciate the effects of proper breathing, repeat this cycle for a duration of 5 minutes.
- Position one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
- Inhale slowly through your nose.
- Direct your breath into your abdomen, inflate the stomach.
- The hand on your abdomen or stomach should move. Not the one on your chest.
- Fill your belly up with air and pause when full.
- Experiment with exhaling through both your nose and mouth.
- Begin slowly. As slowly as you can.
- Exhale all of your air out, empty your lungs entirely.
- Observe the movement of the hand on your belly. Pause for a second before the next inhale.
The Breath Vessel is designed to help you slow your exhale. Learn more.
3 Reasons You Should Breath Through Your Nose
Did you know that a significant 61% of American adults identify as mouth breathers? It's a startling statistic.
But here's what's equally eye-opening: mouth breathing can be almost as disruptive to your sleep quality as chronic stress.
Moreover, consider this: when nasal passages become obstructed, forcing mouth breathing, it can impact the functional connectivity of your brain.
These insights underscore the importance of nasal breathing over mouth breathing. Here are three key reasons to prioritize inhaling through your nose:
Natural Filtration: Nasal breathing acts as your body's built-in air filter, effectively screening out dust and allergens, shielding your lungs from potential irritants.
Air Optimization: It's like your body's air conditioner—nasal breathing warms and moistens the air you inhale, making it more comfortable and lung-friendly.
Nitric Oxide Surge: Nasal breathing releases nitric oxide, a key player in improving oxygen circulation, enhancing your overall respiratory performance.
And here's a bonus: Nasal inhalation encourages deeper breaths by engaging the lower regions of your lungs. If you're not feeling your abdomen move when you breathe, you might be chest breathing, missing out on the full potential of your lower lung capacity.
3 Reasons a Slow Exhalation is Important
Imagine your breath as a conductor, orchestrating a symphony within your body, guided by the vagus nerve—a maestro of well-being. Let's unravel why embracing the art of slower exhalation is a universal key to a better life:
Stress and Anxiety Buster: Picture this as your personal "off" switch for stress and anxiety. Slowing your exhale disarms your body's stress response, ushering in a profound sense of calm.
Physical Harmony: The magic of lengthened exhalations lies in their ability to soothe muscles, lower heart rate, and gently balance blood pressure. It's like a gentle massage for your body, fostering an oasis of relaxation.
Serenity and Resilience Boost: Slowed exhalations open the door to serenity and enhance your ability to bounce back from life's challenges. With each measured breath, you fortify your inner resilience.
We understand that during anxious moments, remembering to breathe slowly can be as challenging as tying a knot with one hand. Integrating this practice into your daily routine may seem daunting. But fear not, the Breath Vessel is here as your trusted companion, making the journey toward refined breathing and leisurely exhalations accessible to all.
Can Deep Breathing Solve All of Our Problems?
While it may not mend a punctured tire, or predict the weather with absolute certainty, the benefits of enhanced breathing permeate your entire body. Redirecting our attention and energy toward our breath's quality and daily practice unlocks a treasure chest of positive effects:
Enhanced Brain Function Naturally:
By adopting a habit of mindful breathing, you naturally synchronize your heart rate with your breath, signaling your brain to release endorphins that play a pivotal role in promoting optimal brain function and a balanced stress response. Shallow breathing, on the other hand, fails to trigger this endorphin release (6).
Mind Tranquility, Body Relaxation, Stress Mastery:
Intriguingly, a 2016 study unearthed a neural circuit in the brain responsible for influencing the connection between breathing and brain control (8). While the precise workings of this center remain a mystery, it's an integral part of the brain's "breathing pacemaker," altering emotional states through modulation of breathing rhythms. The University of Michigan Health Department concurs, highlighting that deep breathing effectively communicates to your brain to unwind and find serenity, subsequently relaying this soothing message to your body (9).
Cognitive Boost, Sharpened Focus, and Extended Attention Span:
A groundbreaking study from the Trinity College of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute unveiled the remarkable impact of controlled breathing and rhythm-focused breath awareness on noradrenaline levels (10). Noradrenaline, the substance released in response to challenges, curiosity, exercise, focus, or emotional arousal, holds the key to enhancing attention to detail and nurturing overall brain health. It encourages the growth of fresh neural connections in the brain, acting as a sort of "brain fertilizer" (11).
So why does this work? When stress strikes, an excess of noradrenaline floods your body, hindering concentration. Conversely, insufficient noradrenaline leaves you feeling lethargic and unfocused (10). Regulating your breathing patterns and rhythm allows you to regain control, balancing the levels of noradrenaline coursing through your system.