Breathing. Oh, I’m a big fan. You’d agree – it’s kind of important, right? But did you think that the way you breathe could affect the way you look? Well listen up. Deep breathing exercises done correctly can improve the health of your skin, refine posture, and benefit mood. Look out world, there’s a new glowing, poised, and cheery you in town.
Shallow Breathing Is For The Birds
It’s natural to resort to shallow breathing when stressed. Unfortunately, many of us are too familiar with chronic stress and that impacts our breathing habits immensely. Shallow breathing prevents toxins from leaving the body and allows them to make themselves at home in our skin (i.e. breakouts). Not to mention, stress increases testosterone and cortisol – both of which have been found guilty of causing breakouts. Cortisol also restricts blood vessels and impairs circulation. This means dull, dry, undernourished skin.
As for posture, shallow breaths only occupy the upper parts of the lung. If you are engaging in chronic shallow breathing YOU ARE NOT LIVING UP TO YOUR FULL POTENTIAL. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it but it does often lead to increased slouching and what I like to call “victim shoulders.” Plus, when you don’t breathe into the vast lower parts of your lungs you don’t benefit from the inner mini-massage your organs get from full inhalation. Make your organs happy and relaxed – give ‘em a few deep breaths.
Do we even need to mention that chronic stress mixed with a poorly oxygenated brain puts a damper on your mood? Read Got Stress, Try Acupuncture for more information on why stress is so-not-cool and how acupuncture can help.
Deep Breathing In All Its Glory
My take on why it’s good for you: As an acupuncturist, I can think of too many reasons why deep, relaxed breathing is essential for good health– but I’ll keep it short. In the grand design of how things work in Chinese Medicine, the lungs are responsible for purifying the skin, regulating the “waterways,” and “controlling” the liver. Deep breathing ensures that the lung does its job and these very good things happen. The rhythmic and downward movement of the lungs soothes the liver and keeps it focused on its main job- moving qi throughout the body. This prevents the aforementioned stress situation, generates a sense of well-being, brings moisture and nourishment to the entire body, and eliminates toxins and all that shall not be named. Hence, gorgeously healthy skin.
(If any of these terms or ideas don’t make much sense, go enjoy some free education in The TCM Dictionary.)
Get To It!
You don’t have to be in full-out lotus position to engage in deep breathing exercises. Practicing while mediating or before bed is AWESOME but there is really no wrong time to practice. My favorites? Waiting for coffee to brew, a quick at-desk work break, standing in line at the grocery store…really people, the world is your oyster.
- Sit or stand comfortably while lengthening your spine and relaxing your shoulders. If you choose to practice while lying down, lay flat on your back.
- With one hand over your heart and one on your lower abdomen (just beneath the belly button) notice which hand moves more with each breath. Now, focus your intention on raising the hand over your abdomen. You should feel your entire chest, rib cage, and abdomen expand and deflate.
- Try to direct your breath to the back of your throat so that you can hear a slight sound. Breathe out fully, drawing your belly button into the spine, again hearing that quiet sound.
- As you practice, try to make the transitions from inhalation to exhalation and vice versa smooth and effortless. Practice for a few minutes and work your way up to longer deep breathing sessions.
- For extra beautifying power, SMILE with each exhalation. Doesn’t everyone look better when they’re smiling?
Well, there you have it. It’s simple. It’s a must. You’re already breathing so why not do it in a way that makes you look and feel great?