Imagine you are sitting at work bogged down with things to do and already feeling stressed. Then, your boss walks in screaming and yelling about something you did wrong. How would you feel? What if you could alleviate most of that stress, anxiety, and not feel like everything is falling apart? That is what rhythmic breathing can do for you.
Below, you will learn what rhythmic breathing is, how it can benefit you, and how it works.
What is Rhythmic Breathing?
Rhythmic breathing is a relaxation technique that can help you during stressful times in your life as well as help you relax to get to sleep. It is when you take long, slow breaths. You count slowly as you inhale, hold your breath, and then count slowly as you exhale.
You may also know it by other names such as controlled breathing, 4-7-8 technique, and deep breathing. Meditation and yoga may also come to mind when you think of rhythmic breathing, but keep in mind that they also encompass other relaxation techniques.
This type of breathing is a core part of many meditation and yoga practices. This is because it promotes relaxation.
What are the Benefits of Rhythmic Breathing?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Various studies have shown that the technique is simple and cost effective and can be used as a complementary therapy, together with ongoing conventional treatments, to help people suffering from extreme levels of stress, anxiety, and other physical problems.” The benefits of rhythmic breathing include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Helps you fall asleep easier
- Manages cravings
- Helps control or reduce anger responses
Other studies have found that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and attention deficit disorder.
How Does Breathing Have So Many Benefits?
The exact reason rhythmic breathing promotes healing still remains a source of scientific study. However, there are a few theories as to why controlled breathing has so many benefits.
One theory is that controlled breathing is able to change the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system controls unconscious processes such as your heart rate, digestion, and stress response. Thus, consciously changing your breathing pattern sends a signal to your brain to adjust your nervous system. When you get those signals, it can slow your heart rate, digestion, and promote a calm feeling. Additionally, this response triggers your body to release less cortisol which is the stress hormone.
So, when you take slow, steady breaths, your brain gets the message that all is well even if you do have stressful situations around you.
How to Do Rhythmic Breathing
There are several techniques you can use to control your breathing, however, there is one method that most people follow when doing rhythmic breathing. It is called the 4-7-8 technique. This breathing pattern aims to reduce your anxiety and help you get to sleep.
The 4-7-8 Rhythmic Breathing Technique
To do this breathing pattern, you must first find a comfortable sitting position. Place the tip of your tongue on the tissue right behind the top of your front teeth. Then focus on the following breathing pattern:
- Empty your lungs of all your air.
- Breathe in quietly through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale forcefully from your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Then, repeat this cycle up to four times.
Other Controlled Breathing Techniques
In addition to using the 4-7-8 breathing technique, using other relaxation techniques can make this process even more relaxing. Here are some other practices that can be followed with the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- Guided imagery
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Repetitive prayer
- Yoga or other meditation
Of course, there are other rhythmic breathing techniques that you can use instead of the 4-7-8 method. These include:
- Belly breathing
- Deep breathing
- 3-2-4 technique
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Equal breathing
- Pursed lip breathing
Any of these methods can be beneficial to alleviating stress and anxiety.
Where Did the Technique Come From
Rhythmic breathing has been used for centuries in yoga to control breathing or pranayama which promotes concentration and improves vitality. In fact, Buddhists have advocated that breath meditation was a way to reach enlightenment.
The importance of breathing was talked about in the first millennium B.C. by both the Tao religion of China and the Hinduism religion. Both religions found breathing and breathing techniques to be of utmost importance. They called the energy of breathing qi in Chinese and prana in Hindu.
The recommendation for how to modulate your breathing or rhythmic breathing appeared in Yoga first. It was the first doctrine to build a theory around breathing control stating that it was a way to increase longevity.
As times changed, autogenic training appeared in the 1920s. This was a method of relaxation that focussed on slow and deep breathing. It was basically like the contemporary forms of mindfulness meditation we have today.
We have only recently found scientific evidence that the benefits of these ancient practices actually do work. Today, we have many different techniques for breathing including the 4-7-8 technique above.
Rhythmic Breathing & The Zen Mode App
During times of stress, rhythmic breathing is always a great way to combat it. That’s why we have developed our Zen Mode app that gives you everything all in one place. In this app, you will be able to listen to binaural beats, practice guided meditations and fall asleep with sleep stories in addition to visual breathing techniques to help minimize the stresses of your day.
As we become more aware of our body, study the effects of breathing, and practice rhythmic breathing, we are finding more and more benefits. The great thing about rhythmic breathing is that you can stop and use it whether you are at work, at home, or getting ready to go to sleep. It is a great tool to overcome stress and anxiety that wreaks havoc on our bodies.
Have you tried rhythmic breathing? What did you think?