In part three of this three-part series on The Science of Breathing, discover a few of the ways focusing on the breath in yoga—and in everyday life—can improve your overall well-being.
RETURN TO Part 1: The Science of Breathing
1. Happiness + emotional stability
Manipulating the breath can alter how we feel, accounting for as much as a 40 percent variance in feelings of anger, fear, joy, and sadness, according to findings in the journal Cognition & Emotion. The breathing instructions used to evoke joy in the study? “Breathe and exhale slowly and deeply through the nose.” Sounds a lot like Ujjayi!
2. Weight Loss
Yogic breathing practices increase levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat tissue that signals the brain to inhibit hunger, according to research from Shirley Telles, PhD, director of the Patanjali Research Foundation in Haridwar, India.
3. Better exercise stamina
A cardiologist at the University of Pavia, Italy, compared a group of mountaineers who practiced slow breathing an hour a day for two years before attempting to climb Mount Everest to a group who didn’t. The breathing group reached the summit without needing the supplemental oxygen the other group did, and their blood and exhalation samples showed they were using 70 percent of the surface area of their lungs, an amount that maximizes the O2 taken in.
4. Longer life
Just one session of relaxing practices like meditation, yoga, and chanting influenced the expression of genes in both short-term and long-term practitioners, according to a Harvard study. Blood samples taken before and after the breathing practices indicated a post-practice increase in genetic material involved in improving metabolism and a suppression of genetic pathways linked with inflammation. Since chronic inflammation has also been associated with such deadly diseases as Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, and heart disease, it’s probably fair to say that better breathing may not only change your life but may also save it.