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How Your Breathing Patterns Affect Your Brain


There are connections between breathing, emotions, and cognition.

Susan McQuillan

We breathe to sustain life but, aside from its most essential role, breathing supports the health of your body and mind in many other ways. More specifically, your breathing rate and patterns help regulate various body systems. For instance, adjusting your breath can help stabilize your respiratory system, blood flow, heart rate, and autonomic nervous system, which helps manage blood pressure, digestion, sexual arousal, and other body functions. In recent years, scientific studies have also begun to focus on the effects of breathing and breathing patterns on mental health and cognitive abilities. Researchers are especially looking at the effects of slow breathing, or reducing your respiratory rate, on both the body and the brain.

Respiratory rates in humans are generally within the range of 10-20 breaths per minute. Slow breathing brings the range down to four to 10 breaths per minute. Several forms of slowed and controlled breathing, such as nasal breathing, abdominal breathing, and vocalized or chanting breathing, have been used for centuries in yoga and meditation practices around the world. Until the past few decades, however, the mechanism and effects of breath control and different types of breathing have been mostly ignored by scientific researchers and medical practices.

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