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Can Zen Breathing Really Have a Positive Effect on Immunity?

We all know that managing stress levels is a key factor in staying healthy. But it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our busy world, and the demands of the day often leave us with little time or energy to commit to stress-reducing activities and routines.

Luckily, there’s a simple, self-care secret that can unlock peace and relaxation in the nervous system and we’re already doing it every day: breathing. Or, more specifically, deep breathing (called Zazen, or Zen Breathing, in Japan).


What is Zen Breathing?

It’s an ancient meditation practice that involves focusing on the breath and remaining in the present moment. The aim is to let go of all judgment and goals, while remaining aware of all sensations and thoughts as they pass, recognizing all things as temporary. In other words, conscious breathing.

The essential idea in zazen is to ‘let it be.’ The Sanskrit term, Tathātā, which can be translated as ‘thus’ or ‘thusness,’ meaning ‘things are as they are,’ is the foundational principle behind the practice of Zazen.

What are the Benefits of Zen Breathing?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health stress can lead to chronic anxiety, which can lead to problems with sleeping, or with your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems.

Yufang Lin, MD, an internal medicine doctor at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Health System, has said: “When you’re under stress, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which is associated with stress-related symptoms such as faster breathing, heart-rate elevation, irritability, elevated blood pressure, anxiety and body tension.”

According to Philip Barr, MD, a board-certified integrative health doctor and staff physician at Global Cardio Care in Los Angeles, this nervous system is connected to every tissue in the body, and when it becomes overactive, as occurs when the body’s flight or fight response is triggered, “any kind of disorder that is already going on in that organ system can be made worse.”

Lin states “Triggering your parasympathetic nervous system helps you start to calm down. You feel better, and your ability to think rationally returns.”

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Why is Zen Breathing Important?

Because it has a direct effect on your immune system.

An article published in the European Respiratory Journal found a direct link between breathing and the increased production of crucial, immune response cells, such as T-cells and natural killer cells, that help fight infection and disease.

Tips for Success

We’ve outlined three simple steps you can take to align Zazen with your daily dose of immune system support.

Step 1: Zazen

Sit cross-legged, or with your legs stretched out to shoulder width. Then, take a deep, mindful breath to relax.

Step 2: Take 3 tablets

Take 3 tablets with your beverage of choice.

Step 3: Say ‘thank you’ to your body

Slowly imagine each organ inside your body, considering each one and how hard it works, all day, every day, just for you. Then, place your hand on your chest and say, ‘thank you.’