The health benefits of meditation are beyond question. From studies on deep breathing mediation which show drastic improvements in heart rate (a measure of stress), to research which proves that meditation reduces anxiety, to tests on mindfulness meditation that demonstrate how sitting still with your thoughts can improve attention, the science all comes out in favor of the everyday practice of meditation.
One of the most important aspects of meditation is breathing. There are many different forms of meditation, but there are also many kinds of breathing practice exercises — e.g., alternate nostril breathing, abdominal breathing, breath awareness — each with its own unique benefits to meditation practice. Learning to pay attention to the present moment, the rhythm and depth of your breaths, allowing them to guide your meditation, and practicing breathing with your diaphragm are perhaps the most helpful things you can do to improve your breathing and meditation and thus your health.
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The ways that breathing mindful meditation reduces stress and anxiety are multiple, but interconnected.
At a basic level, deep, regular, calm breathing is a technique to reduce what is known as “heart rate variability” or HRV. When your sympathetic nervous system, responsible for your fight or flight response, is activated, your heart pumps quickly to provide emergency oxygen to your body with less variation in its beats. When in a relaxed state, however, your heart merely beats as fast as is necessary to maintain bodily functioning, and its beats thus vary depending on the body’s needs.
At the same time, deep, diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to decrease blood pressure and pulse rate, as well as other indicators of stress like skin conductivity (more sweat means more stress!). Similarly, clinical subjects have been shown to have decreased affects like anger, depression, and pain after sustained deep breathing relaxation meditation.
But are these metrics the cause of reduced stress, or merely its outcomes?
A study published in Pain Medicine (Busch, et al., 2012) found evidence that, by taking slow, relaxing deep breaths, we are actually suppressing our somatosensory system — the part of the nervous system responsible for giving our body information about itself — thereby preventing a feedback loop from occuring in our frontal cortex. In plain English, relaxing deep breathing meditation makes the body stop interpreting evidence of its own stress, such as HRV, skin conductivity, pain, and blood pressure, as a reason to get even more stressed. In this way, deep breathing is a natural stress management technique perfect for improving mental health.
If you find yourself distracted while meditating — unable to sit still, focus your breathing, and quiet your thoughts — Mesmerize can help you practice breathing and improve your meditation technique. No meditation coach required! In addition to a wide array of psycho-acoustic music clinically proven to help you relax, Mesmerize also offers an awesome collection of everyday meditation scripts, from mindfulness meditations to guided imagery to awareness meditation to positive affirmations.
Most important, however, is Mesmerize’s unique visual breathing system, which guides the rhythm of your breathing using hypnotic visuals that flutter and swirl in time with a breathing pattern that you choose. Our users have found that by letting these visuals keep the rhythm of breathing, their minds become free to focus on mindfulness mantras or even nothing at all.
Download for a FREE TRIAL and see how Mesmerize’s attention on breathing can make your meditation more relaxing.