This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.
If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your physical health and mood, just breathe. The practice of breathwork, or the intentional manipulation of your breathing has been gaining attention thanks to the widespread popularity of yoga and meditation. However, researchers have been studying the benefits of breathwork for years.
“Breathing is not new — it’s the most essential thing we do for our bodies — but breathwork is a new approach to wellness,” says William Wesley Myers, assistant vice president of wellness strategies for Mather. Mather is the owner operator of The Mather, a Life Plan Community that is coming to Tysons in 2024.
Renee West knows the power of breathwork. “Breathwork is extremely important in yoga. They call it the intelligence of the body,” she says. When Renee, who plans to move into The Mather, retired from her corporate sales career, she pursued certification as a yoga instructor. Today, with an additional teaching certificate in Yin Yoga, she leads classes in a local yoga studio and has her own practice.
“Breathwork has many health benefits,” Renee explains. “You can use it to increase or decrease your energy, to calm your mind and to help you focus, among many things. There are so many techniques.”
Physical benefits from deep breathing are often instantaneous. There is a direct relationship between breath rate, mood and systems that activate our fight-or-flight or rest-and-restore responses, which directly affect heart rate, respiration and digestion. Deep, mindful breathing carries benefits to these systems and more.
Emotional Health: One study showed that manipulating the breath can cause up to a 40% variance in emotions. Evoke joy by breathing and exhaling slowly and deeply through the nose. Other research shows breathwork can help to treat anxiety, PTSD and severe depression, even in those who don’t respond well to antidepressants.
Blood Pressure: A regular practice of slow, deep breathing is an effective way to reduce blood pressure.
Stamina: An Italian study found that the lungs of mountain-climbers who practiced slow breathing an hour a day for two years maximized oxygen better, allowing the climbers to forego supplemental oxygen needed by others to summit Mount Everest.
Focus: Breath-focused yoga can sharpen participants’ attention spans and focus by changing brain chemistry.
Pain Management: Multiple studies have shown that slow, deep breathing can reduce perception of chronic pain or help people cope with discomfort. Breathwork can be especially effective with back pain.
Longevity: Research has shown that breathwork improves metabolism and reduces inflammation — both of which contribute to longer life.
“People can all benefit from doing a little breathwork,” says Renee. “You can do some simple breathing exercises sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Even five minutes of breathwork offers benefits!”
The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. The community is located in the center of a vibrant urban location just two blocks from the Metro and within walking distance to restaurants, retail, and parks.
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