Anxiety often leaves us feeling overwhelmed or disconnected from our bodies. While many of us suffer from some level of anxiety, most people don’t know the positive effects of consciously focusing on breathwork. While taking deep breaths in is commonly seen in media and daily life, exploring the science behind exhalation is key in impacting our well-being. From alleviating anxiety levels to reducing blood pressure, we’ll delve into the importance of proper exhaling.
The Oxygen-Carbon Dioxide Exchange
Everytime we breathe in and out, we are exchanging the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen within our bodies. Inhaling allows us to take in oxygen which is vital in producing our energy and supporting proper levels of our blood chemistry and functioning of our bodies. If you’ve ever found yourself rapidly, shallow breathing due to anxiety, you’re actually reducing the levels of C02 in your blood. In turn, this can lead to feelings of increased anxiety and panic.
Another way to look at it is when C02 levels rise within your body, they trigger a decrease in blood pH to facilitate the release of oxygen being delivered efficiently to the cells. If C02 levels are too low, oxygen uptake is impaired. Thus, it is important to keep C02 levels at a specific baseline at all times to prevent anxiety and panic attacks, and we can do this by slowing down our exhale and consciously focusing on our breathing patterns.
More On Shallow Breathing
During periods of stress or panic, our breathing pattern becomes much more rapid. This is also known as shallow breathing, which significantly impairs the amount of oxygen we take in while rapidly reducing our C02 levels. This allows our blood pH to rise above normal levels, and a cascade of physiological symptoms come with that from shortness of breath to tightness of chest.
Shallow breathing also activates our sympathetic nervous system, or fight or flight response, which increases the feelings of anxiety further.
The Power Of Deep Breathing
Deep breathing techniques are the exact opposite of shallow breathing. They involve slower, deeper, diaphragmatic breaths rather than shallow rapid breathwork. By practicing deep breathing, you are encouraging full and mindful inhalations and exhalations.
By intentionally slowing down the breath and balancing our C02 and oxygen levels within our body, you’re purposely activating your parasympathetic nervous system and inducing a more relaxed state. From a greater sense of calm to an enhancement in mental clarity and focus, deep breathing exercises help build a habit out of reducing daily anxiety.
Slowing Down the Exhale
While slow and deep inhalation is definitely important, focusing on slowing down the exhale has its own unique benefit. Slow exhalation triggers a physiological response by activating the vagus nerve, which is one of the major components in the autonomic nervous system. It is primarily connected to promoting feelings of calm and reducing the heart rate, and it all starts with just slowing down the exhale.
Sometimes it may be hard to slow down your exhale without the aid of a breathwork tool. A device, such as Moksha, is designed specifically to restrict the exhale to the ideal resistance level so you have one less thing to worry about. Additionally, once you’ve used it enough, it helps build the habit of slow exhalation while serving as a constant reminder to practice proper breathwork throughout your day.
Understanding the science behind your exhalation helps unlock the potential of proper breathwork as a powerful tool to manage your stress and anxiety. By focusing on deliberate releases of your breath and being fully aware and mindful of how it impacts your body, you can enhance the benefits achieved from breathwork and promote a greater sense of relaxation.