Breathing can be considered one of the most important functions in keeping us alive and healthy. Oxygen comes in through the nose or mouth and travels down to our lungs. Here it spreads through the lungs, down to the alveoli where it enters the blood stream. The oxygen then spreads through the body feeding all the cells.
It’s no wonder why breath is such an important aspect to meditation, and I recommend that mastering your breath should be the first skill you obtain when practicing meditation or any type of stress reduction program. Although Im sure there are various breathing practices, I am going to focus on diaphragmatic breathing and meditation on breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is extremely effective in battling stress/anxiety/hyper-arousal because when done properly, it forces the body into a more relaxed state. This type of breathing moves the diaphragm up and down to draw in long, deep breaths. In contrast, one typically breaths by moving their chest up and down, resulting in shallow breathing. For the most part, we function just fine with this type of breath, but during states of hyperarousal, breathing that involves moving your chest leads to more rapid and shallow breathing. This type of breathing is associated with activation of the sympathetic nervous system. It increases blood flow through the body, bringing more oxygen to the muscles to prepare for fight or flight.