- Breathwork has sometimes often been dismissed as a spiritual practice.
- Breathing patterns can be used to optimize your immune system function and other bodily functions.
- Here’s why breathwork can be used to fight disease and keep you – and your family – healthy.
The pandemic has provided space for many people to learn more about themselves and to grow. One standout trend during this time has been for people to get back to the basics through meditation and, notably, breathwork. A generic term used to identify the use of regulated breathing and patterns to boost spiritual, mental, and physical health, “breathwork” seems to have sewn itself into the very fabric of self-care.
But what is it about breathwork that we keep coming back to? What tangible benefits does focusing on your breath and its patterns provide, and can it actually host physical benefits for you? Here are 4 ways that breathwork can helps you fight off disease.
Breathwork increases respiratory function
Just like stretching your muscles, your lungs benefit from regular stretches and exercises. Letting your breath control the movement and timing of your respiratory system is key to healthy lung function. According to a recent study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “the breathing pattern, as defined by respiratory rate, tidal volume, diaphragmatic activation, respiratory pauses and passive versus active expiration, has a profound effect not only on respiration efficiency but also extending to cardiovascular function and autonomic function.”
Deep breathing can also improve diaphragm function and increase lung capacity with extended practice, both which lend themselves to respiratory regulation.
Breathwork enacts your pituitary gland
The pituitary is a tiny gland that lives behind the eyes in the at the base of the brain. The pituitary is heavily involved in the function of most other endocrine glands. More specifically, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands work together to control the involuntary nervous system, which regulates energy, water, and heat in the body. This involves reactions like your body’s heartbeat, temperature, sleep, and appetite.
According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information):
The hormones secreted or regulated by the pituitary gland therefore regulate every level of immune activity, including the competence of lymphocytes to respond to immune/inflammatory stimuli, signal transduction, gene activation, the production and activity of cytokines and other immune effector functions.
As you breathe deeply, you kick the pituitary gland into high gear, allowing endorphins to begin to flow through your body.
Breathwork regulates your nervous system
As mentioned above, autonomic function can kick off with the help of regulated breathwork. “As many people are aware, there’s the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for resting and digesting and there’s the sympathetic nervous system that responds to perceived dangerous or stressful situations,” explains marriage and family counselor and breathing coach Callie David, MA MFTC. Breathing exercises kick them both into balanced function.
According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “Neurotransmitters released by sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve endings bind to their respective receptors located on the surface of immune cells and initiate immune-modulatory responses.” The influence of the autonomic nervous system on circulatory function is phenomenal, helping to control the cardiovascular system through the regulation of blood distribution. Working to balance its function through breathing practices can help oxygen get to your blood in a rhythm that can optimize most of your bodily functions.
Breathwork helps you sleep
As always, your immune system’s ability to defend you from outside stressors and viruses is highly reliant on factors such as the amount of sleep you get. During sleep, the immune system stays awake, releasing cytokines that alert the body to infection or inflammation. Sleep deprivation or irregular sleep patterns can lead to obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, heart disease, and more chronic issues. It can also drastically affect your ability to handle viruses and infections.
So, how does sleep relate to breathwork? Via the autonomous nervous system (ANS), as highlighted above. When your body is stressed, it can be difficult to achieve REM sleep. With both physical and mental stressors coming at you each day – including subtle aspects of your life, such as free radicals, blue light, and more – it can be difficult to develop regular sleeping patterns. According to a 2019 study, “modulation of the ANS via slow breathing techniques in adjunct to relaxation techniques and sleep hygiene may be a more powerful tool in combating insomnia than the prevailing method of using hypnotics and other pharmaceutical interventions.” Healthy breathing technique and focusing on relaxing breathing exercises before bed can do wonders for your sleep hygiene, allowing you the best headspace to get a full night’s rest.
Be sure to connect with the earth more frequently to help balance all of your body’s functions. For additional immune support, we suggest supplementing with REALMUSHROOMS 5 Defenders Organic Mushroom Complex. This USDA Certified Organic powder can easily be added to most meals and broths to help boost your immune system function and increase energy. These high-quality holistic supplements will help even the healthiest individual boost their daily routine.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.