For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on the earth.” - Sanskrit Proverb
- By Darshan Goswami, MS, PE, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Without breathing, there is no life. Breathing is a vital part of life, it helps deliver oxygen into your bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide. Two basic ways of breathing are chest breathing and deep breathing. With deep breathing (also called diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing), always inhale and exhale through your nose, not your mouth. The breath is focused on the diaphragm rather than on the chest.
Breathing is influenced by our thoughts and physiology which, in turn, can be influenced by our breath. It is important to recognize that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected and therefore, impact our wellness. Learning to control our breath is one of the most powerful ways to enhance physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. You can understand essential truths about life by paying attention to your breath. Through the breath, you can also access deep states of effortless meditation. 
The Science of Deep Breathing
Most meditation techniques are based on deep breathing. In the ancient yogic teachings, this practice is called Pranayama or expanding the life force using the breath.
The expression is derived from two Sanskrit words: Prana (life force) and Ayama (expansion). A fundamental principle of Pranayama is to inhale through the nostrils, and the yogic teachings contain many different Pranayama exercises that can help you tap into your breath as a means of building self-awareness and focus during meditation or yoga to heal the body.
The physical benefits of deep breathing are often immediate. Deep breathing provides fresh oxygen to every cell of your body and stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS soothes and calms the body, which causes the blood capillaries to expand, allowing fresh oxygen to come in to the blood, and carbon dioxide to leave. In addition, deep breathing can expand our lung capacity, and lower our heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Deep breathing also has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and sleep-regulating effects, and may even improve longevity. 
A Simple Way to Perform Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing
Find a comfortable, quiet place. Sit with a straight spine with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed (or lie down). Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage (over your diaphragm), and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. The inhaled air should move downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. Hold the breath for 2 to 3 seconds, and exhale through your nose (mouth closed) while counting to four. Your hands should go down as your abdomen deflates. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully
In the beginning, try practicing this exercise for a minimum of 5 minutes at a time, and at least twice a day. Gradually add time each day until your sessions are about 15 minutes long. With regular practice, you will train your body to breathe correctly and increase your energy and vitality.
Pranayama Breathing Techniques
There are many different types of breathing techniques, and each has a specific effect on mind-body physiology. Some of these exercises are simple enough to do on your own, but having a health professional as a guide can be beneficial, especially if you are a beginner. Before you begin, make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position with your spine erect.
Here are just a few basic breathing techniques used in yoga to help you get started.
Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath) - Sitting with back and neck straight, inhale through both nostrils and exhale forcefully (out of your nose) followed by slightly slower, passive inhalations. Each outward breath is propelled by a powerful thrust of the abdomen at a pace of about 60 breaths per minute. Following this thrust, the abdomen is quickly relaxed and the breath flows back into the lungs, recoiling from the force of the exhalation. The inhalation is smooth and effortless.
Bastrika (Bellow's breath) – This is one of the most invigorating breathing exercises in yoga. Inhale and exhale quickly and forcefully (without straining) by flapping the abdomen. This should be practiced for up to 60 breaths per minute.
Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) - Start by using the right thumb to close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Hold your breath momentarily, close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. While still holding the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril. Then, close the right nostril and breathe out through the left nostril. This completes one round, and the procedure can be repeated for up to the desired number of rounds.
Ujjayi or OM Vilom (Psychic Breath) - Inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose at a normal pace, with partial contraction of the glottis, which produces a light snoring sound. Be aware of the passage of breath through the throat during the exercise.
Bhramari (Honeybee Humming Breath) - After a full inhalation, close both ears using the index fingers, and exhale making a soft humming sound similar to that of a honeybee.
Deep breathing is a powerful and simple tool for improving your health and wellbeing. Adults at rest normally breathe 12 to 16 times per minute. Deep breathing involves drawing in more air, at a controlled pace, to reach a rate of about 6 breaths or less per minute. Always breathe and exhale from your nose and not the mouth, and inhale down to the diaphragm (abdomen). By regularly practicing deep breathing, you will begin to breathe more effectively even without concentrating on it. Scientific research shows that learning to breathe correctly and consciously is one of the most effective ways to lower everyday stress levels and improve a variety of health factors ranging from mood to metabolism.
Deep breathing has already been proven in clinical trials to be an effective therapy for treating, chronic anxiety, digestion, and hypertension. In some cases, simply changing the way we breathe can blunt the symptoms of many chronic diseases. Today, some hospitals have begun teaching patients relaxation breathing for treating a wide range of conditions.
Breathing properly is a wonderful way to extend the duration and quality of your life. You can begin with a minimum of two five-minute segments, gradually increasing to two 15-minute sessions every day. And the best part is it’s free and literally right under your nose.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
About The Author
DARSHAN GOSWAMI, MS, PE, has more than 40 years of experience in the energy field. He worked as a Project Manager for Renewable Energy, Micro-grid and Smart Grid projects at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Pittsburgh. He is a registered professional electrical engineer with a passion and commitment to promote, develop, and deploy renewable energy resources and the hydrogen economy. The author supports: India Foundation for Children Education and Care, Inc. (http://www.ifcare.org/).
 Breathing for Life: The Mind-Body Healing Benefits of Pranayama – Chopra
 The Art of Conscious Breathing: A Powerful Exercise to Purify and Rejuvenate the Body and Mind - By Shems Heartwell