The Effects of Breathing on the Brain

The effects of breathing on the brain are, you'll feel much calmer as deeper breathing will help you reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, it may even improve your concentration.
The Effects of Breathing on the Brain

Written by Carmen Martín

Last update: 15 December, 2022

It’s no wonder the effects of breathing on the brain are important as this is one of the most important organs in our body. It’s also one of the most sensitive, though. This is because it’s subject to all body changes and thus highly impacted by all sorts of factors such as glucose levels, heart rate, etc.

Breathing is the process by which we obtain oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide through our lungs. Not only that, oxygen is essential for all the reactions that allow us to live and function properly.

So, breathing is an automated mechanism; we usually do it unconsciously, without really knowing how. We can consciously control it, however.

There’s been research in recent years about the effects of breathing on the brain. Knowing what they are, scientists then developed some breathing techniques that can improve your quality of life. Continue reading to find out more.

What are the effects of breathing on the brain?

Breathing has been important for many, many centuries, especially in the East. In fact, it’s a very important part of meditation techniques and disciplines such as yoga.

The effects of breathing on the brain were a mystery until recently, at least relatively. Studies carried out at Stanford University show that the relationship between breathing and relaxation has a scientific basis based on brain mechanisms.

While it’s true that deep breathing is great for coping with stress or panic, the mechanism by which it occurs wasn’t well-known until now. The research demonstrated the existence of a special group of neurons in the brain.

There are about 350 neurons distributed throughout the central nervous system. What makes them different from the rest is that they activate breathing a lot faster. This is important because these neurons stimulate other parts of the brain.

These areas pertain to panic, sleep, and stress. Thus, one of the effects of breathing on the brain is directly related to such sensations.

A woman meditating.
Breathing is a key element in yoga practice.

What’s the implication?

The effect of breathing on the brain helps us analyze the way we breathe and adapt it to every moment of our life. As we mentioned above, breathing slowly and calmly decreases the activity of your neurons.

So, we can reduce our stress and anxiety levels just by breathing properly. We can even handle panic situations much more effectively. It’s called controlled, rhythmic or deep breathing and the goal is to breathe with the diaphragm instead of with the chest.

This is precisely what the practice of both yoga and meditation is about. In fact, there are also breathing techniques for childbirth, which help mothers-to-be to cope with birthing pain.

Likewise, we can also use this effect of breathing on the brain in the opposite direction. We can breathe faster and more aggressively to activate ourselves. However, using it to relax and calm down is a lot more common.

A woman exercising.
You can apply breathing techniques to relax and reduce stress during pregnancy.


Like any other body tissue in our body, the brain needs oxygen to carry out its functions. However, the latest research shows there’s another effect of breathing on the brain.

What it shows is that there are certain neurons that activate more when we breathe faster. They pertain to levels of stress and fear. As you can see, controlling your breathing is a weapon you can use to face the daily routine with.

You must learn to control your breathing and, to do so, you can request the help of people who are familiar with yoga and meditation, where knowing how to breathe is key.

The idea here is to be aware of the importance of breathing. Also, you may want to look at the way you breathe and to practice doing so more intently, deeply and slowly. It might give you better control over your emotions.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.