Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing - How to engage the Relaxation Response

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing 

Deep breathing can help combat stress response and symptoms

When we are affected by stress it changes our breathing. When outside factors increase our stress the body engages a fight or flight response. This stress response was designed to help us escape from imminent danger. It sends blood to the muscles of the body, releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to improve concentration and focus. Over time and prolonged stress stimulus and stress hormones begins to have negative effects on our health. Negative effects of prolonged stress can include high blood pressure, suppressed immune function and adrenal fatigue. Prolonged stress increases an individual's risk factors for heart disease, anxiety, depression and common illnesses. Over time prolonged exposure to stress increases the demands on the system eventually creating systemic fatigue and burnout leaving the individual's overall health compromised.

The Relaxation Response

The good news is that the negative effects of the stress response can be balanced by engaging the relaxation response. The relaxation response, which is a physical state of deep rest, engages our parasympathetic nervous system which helps our body heal and repair. A technique known as Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing was developed at Harvard Medical School by a cardiologist named Dr. Herbert Benson in the 1970’s. Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing, commonly known as belly breathing, is a corner focus of triggering the relaxation response. Several alternative practices exist to engage the relaxation response. Other popular relaxation response practices include meditation, yoga, massage.

There are several ways to engage the relaxation response but certain traits are always common to support a state of relaxation. In order to relax you need a safe and calm environment.  Try to sit or lay somewhere that you stay comfortably for up to a half hour. Your environment should be a comfortable temperature to support relaxation, if you get cold easily you may want to keep a blanket on hand.

Belly Breathing

One of the fastest and simplest ways to increase relaxation is practicing belly breathing. Belly breathing is responsible for increasing relaxation and oxygen to the bodies tissues. The health benefits don't end there however, belly breathing improves concentration, promotes feelings of well being and reduces muscle tension and fatigue. Other health benefits include improved immune function, lowered blood pressure and increased lung capacity. Belly breathing also makes us feel better by calming the mind and releasing endorphins that combat stress hormones.


Lay or sit comfortably, lay on your back or by sitting up straight. Bring one hand to your belly and the other to your chest. Begin by taking a deep breath into your belly. Allow your belly to expand like a balloon into your hand as you inhale, exhaling allowing the belly to empty. The hand on chest should move only minimally.

The best part about a breathing practice is that it can easily be done anywhere. It can be as fast and simple as three deep breaths. This can be a great exercise to do before bed at night and before getting out of bed in the morning.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and watch the video. We hope you enjoyed and are going to give these easy breathing exercises a go. Enjoy some zen time today, you deserve it!

Stay tuned to our Wellness Wednesday and biweekly blog posts to help improve your well-being.

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