Can Breathing Exercises Give You a Healthy Aging Boost? You Bet!
Could something as simple as doing breathing exercises help you to get more from life after 60? The answer is almost certainly yes!
For most of our lives, we have a tendency to take our bodies for granted. In our 20s and 30s, we barely even notice that it is there – or, at the very least we don’t appreciate it as much as we should!
In our 50s and 60s, we suddenly become aware of our bodies once again. We suddenly realize that, if we are going to maintain our quality of life, we need to start taking our health seriously.
Joining a gym or taking up a sport is a great idea, but, there are plenty of simpler things that we can do to improve our health, energy and mood after 60. For starters, we can learn how to breathe.
Breathing is free. You can do it anywhere, anytime. It is a truly essential activity that can reduce stress and improve your health, energy level and mood.
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Every day, you breathe around 15 times a minute. That’s 20,000 times a day. You never think about it since breathing is just something your body does naturally, but every one of your daily breaths is a chance to refocus and re-energize your spirit.
Every time you take a breath, oxygen is inhaled to nourish the cells of your body and then carbon dioxide is exhaled as those cells give off toxins and waste. At a minimum, breathing is what keeps us alive.
However, beyond basic survival, good breathing is also essential to making the most of our health. There is real value in taking deep deliberate slow breaths a few times each day to make our bodies even stronger. The good news is that positive breathing also reduces stress!
Breathing Exercises Can Assist with Healthy Aging
Stress has a significant impact on our heath as we age, so women over 60 have a special reason to establish good breathing habits. Focused breathing has been used for centuries in countries around the world to energize the body and create a positive mindset.
We’ve all had those moments in life where we say to ourselves or to our children in moments of stress, “Take a deep breath!” Taking a deep breath calms you and centers you. Do it right now and see how it makes you feel. Take one deep breath right now. How do you feel?
It might not seem like something so simple as “taking a deep breath” can make a big difference in your life. However, in the long run, having a strong healthy body and calm mind makes you more efficient, productive and energized! Something as simple as taking a deep breath can help improve all aspects of your life!
How does this work? What is happening in our body when we breathe deliberately and with mindful awareness?
There is a very simple cause and effect between positive breathing and good health. Deep slow breathing causes an increase in the levels of a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin works kind of like our body’s own built in “anti-anxiety drug,” because it reduces levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. We all know that reducing stress helps us to transform our mindset from negative to positive and has a real impact on how we interact with our world – family, friends and colleagues.
Deep breathing, through breathing exercises, also stimulates the hypothalamus, which acts on the pituitary gland to send out neurohormones that work to balance our hormones. This practice triggers a relaxation response in your body.
Our moods are often controlled by our hormones, so it is very important to remember this relationship between breathing, hormones and our overall physical health. Poor breathing can lead to insomnia, panic attacks and even chest pain that can be quite frightening. So deep breathing can benefit the body in several ways. Let’s explore just a few examples.
Besides relieving stress, deep breathing has also been shown to improve the function of our overall immune function. Good breathing can improve heart health and reduce blood pressure. It can also improve the quality of life of people affected by chronic pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma.
Most importantly, good breathing and being aware of our breathing, even in simple everyday situations, has preventive benefits for our overall health and mental well-being. Think about how you spend a typical day and how paying attention to your breathing is so vitally important.
Today our busy and sedentary lives contribute to poor posture and a variety of situations where breathing is not optimal. As strange as it sounds, many people today are encountering situations where they “forget how to breathe!” For example, there have been some recent studies to show that when people are reading e-mail they tend to hold their breath. Think about it, is there a time when you’ve been working on something important and then you stop to realize that you haven’t taken a breath for a few minutes? Have you ever noticed this?
A concept called “email apnea” shows that people often start doing shallow breathing, hyperventilating, or not breathing at all while checking their e-mail or using their mobile phones. Think of the times you do this yourself in a typical day!
Irregular breathing increases stress by causing the body to triggers a nervous response that dumps chemicals into the nervous system, and confuses the body. So it’s probably a good idea to be more mindful of your breathing while working at your computer and take regular breathing and stretch breaks.
The benefits of breathing are not just limited to our physical health. Good breathing has an impact on our mind and spirit as well.
Better breathing gives a self-awareness of one’s connection to the universe, and to a very profound gratitude for the simple gift of life. With every breath we take, we can express a silent feeling of thankfulness that our bodies are functioning, that we can feel the air in our lungs, that we have strength and power to work toward our goals. Breathing exercises allow us to connect to a rhythm that gives us space to shift attention from the physical to the purpose of our lives at a more spiritual level.
Deep slow breathing has an impact on how we perceive ourselves and our inner purpose. When we breathe deeply, we have the power to set aside inconsequential thoughts and mundane troubles, and invite a more meditative state of mind. The use of the breath is central to meditation practice. Watching the breath enables the mind to calm down and to focus on self-observation, reflection and mindfulness.
Deep breathing also allows you to pay attention to the gaps between the breath where all thought and infinite potentiality arises. This is where the mind, body and spirit are united and where the breath becomes the connecting energy for our whole selves, in a deep and meaningful way. Let’s take a minute now to practice what we’ve been discussing.
Take Action to Find Happiness
Of course, you might say, “breathing is easy.” You do it every day, but….
Let’s take a minute to practice some deep breathing and see what a difference it makes to our overall sense of well being, happiness and good health. Of course, everyone’s body is different, so, be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about your health or the breathing exercise below.
Here’s what to do:
- Start by sitting comfortably in any position and put your hands on your chest and stomach.
- Next, start to breathe from your abdomen, not from your chest. This practice of abdominal breathing is known as “belly breathing.”
- Continue to focus on your breath until you feel your stomach rise and fall.
- When you inhale, breathe in through your nose.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale through your mouth.
- Exhaling should take twice as long as inhaling – this is how we prolong the breath and achieve a more meditative state.
- Try 4 seconds to inhale, 7 seconds to hold, and 8 seconds to exhale.
- Let go of other thoughts while you breathe.
How do you feel? Do you feel a greater sense of calmness? Do you feel a greater sense of connectedness to your body and your mind?
Do you agree that breathing is essential to getting the most from life after 60? What did you think of the breathing exercises in this article? Please join the conversation.