Slow, deep and consistent breathing has been shown to be beneficial in treating conditions including anxiety disorders, pain and irritable bowel syndrome.

The following is a portion of an article written by Sumathi Reddy for wsj.com…

Take a deep breath and relax.

Behind that common piece of advice is a complex series of physiological processes that calm the body, slow the heart and help control pain.

Breathing and controlling your breath is one of the easiest ways to improve mental and physical health, doctors and psychologists say.

“If you train yourself to breathe a little bit slower it can have long-term health benefits,” said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. Deep breathing activates a relaxation response, he said, “potentially decreasing inflammation, improving heart health, boosting your immune system and maybe even improving longevity.”

Belisa Vranich, a New York City-based clinical psychologist, has been conducting breathing workshops around the country for just over a year. Among her biggest clients: corporate managers eager to learn how to better manage stress.

Dr. Vranich says she instructs clients to breathe with their abdomen. On the inhale, this encourages the diaphragm to flatten out and the ribs to flare out. Most of us by instinct breathe vertically, using our chest, shoulders and neck, she says.

Abdominal, or diaphragmatic, breathing is often taught in yoga and meditation classes. Experts say air should be breathed in through the nose, and the exhale should be longer than the inhale. Dr. Vranich recommends trying to breathe this way all the time but other experts say it is enough to use the technique during stressful or tense times or when necessary to focus or concentrate.

On a recent afternoon, Dr. Vranich held a private session with Joe March, a 40-year-old New York City firefighter who said he wanted to improve his lung capacity and condition for Brazilian jujitsu, a form of martial arts he practices.

Earl Winthrop, a 60-year-old partner of a Boston wealth-management firm, is another of Dr. Vranich’s clients. “When I was working on the computer, I wasn’t breathing properly,” said Mr. Winthrop, who now does tailored breathing exercises and short bouts of meditative breathing. “I’m much more aware now. I feel more focused. I can calm myself down,” he said.

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