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The Powerful Benefits of Abdominal Breath for Parasympathetic Nervous System

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Fresh air in the mountain

A few weeks ago, I shared a practice of abdominal breath in a Crocodile posture or Makarasana. Now let's dive deeper to understand the connection between the abdominal breath and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetic nervous system is a crucial component of our autonomic nervous system, responsible for regulating our body's rest and digestion functions. It helps to maintain homeostasis by counterbalancing the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight or flight response. One effective way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is through deep abdominal breathing.

Deep abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, involves the conscious effort to breathe deeply into the abdomen rather than shallowly into the chest. This technique has been practiced for centuries in various cultures and is a fundamental aspect of practices such as yoga and meditation. When we engage in deep abdominal breathing, we activate the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. This muscle plays a crucial role in respiration, and its movement during deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, a major component of the parasympathetic nervous system.

The vagus nerve, also known as the "wandering nerve," is the longest cranial nerve in the body and has branches that extend from the brainstem to various organs, including the heart, lungs, and digestive system. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it releases acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps to slow down the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and promote relaxation. This activation of the parasympathetic nervous system has a profound effect on our overall well-being.

Makarasana yoga pose
Crocodile Posture or Makarasana

Research has shown that deep abdominal breathing can have numerous benefits for both our physical and mental health. It was found that deep breathing exercises significantly reduced stress levels and improved heart rate variability, a measure of the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

In addition to its immediate effects, deep abdominal breathing can also have long-term benefits for our health. Chronic stress and the constant activation of the sympathetic nervous system have been linked to various health problems, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and mental health disorders. By regularly practicing deep abdominal breathing, we can help to rebalance our autonomic nervous system, reducing the negative impact of chronic stress on our bodies.

Amazing, isn't it?

So in a very simple way, think of deep abdominal breathing as a secret code that tells your body to chill out. When you take those deep breaths, it's like sending a message to your brain saying, "Hey, it's time to relax!" Your body starts to ease up, your heart rate slows down, and your stress levels take a nosedive.

So keep practicing, and I'll send some more online practices soon!

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