You’ve probably heard statistics that say most people are dehydrated and don’t even know it. But in a sense, people aren’t getting enough air either.

It may sound strange, but in the age of flat stomachs being a goal a lot of people don’t breathe very deeply. This makes shallow chest breathing feel normal, but the truth is that the body generally switches to quick, shallow breathes during a fight or flight stress response. The diaphragm doesn’t get to stretch thoroughly, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. That’s why when you’re panicking people tell you to “just breathe”. Long, slow full breaths can regulate heart rate and make it easier to shake off extreme anxiety.

Relaxing Effects of Deep Breathing

Controlling your breathing is a helpful habit to form both while you’re working and while you’re relaxing. If you tend to have trouble sleeping, focusing on your breathing can help. The breathing itself relaxes the body, but focusing on nothing except your breathing lets your body go limp, and by blocking out thoughts of anything else you’ll feel yourself slipping away rather than continuously dragged back into wakefulness.

During a therapeutic massage there are two big table-side benefits as well. In the same way that allowing your muscles to go slack helps with sleep, it also helps your massage therapist penetrate the fascia, getting into deep tissues to alleviate tension. If you’ve got some very tight, sore spots, relaxing your muscles can make the discomfort shorter because the therapist’s strokes will each be more effective. This is particularly important in trigger point therapy. Also, deep breathing can make working through those tough areas more tolerable because your focus is on the breathing and not as much on your body.

Deep Breathing and Energy Levels

Deep breathing puts significantly more oxygen in your blood. Sometimes the reason people yawn or feel drowsy is a lack of oxygen to the brain. In the same way that drinking a glass or two of water can help with dehydration-induced drowsiness, making an effort to breath slowly and fully can put more energy producing oxygen back in the bloodstream. Since blood circulates fairly fast and breathing is constantly swapping out CO2 for fresh oxygen, you’ll feel the effects pretty quickly.

Blood with too little oxygen in it (hypoxia) does more than just make us sleepy, though. Cells rely on oxygen among other things the blood delivers to them to grow, fight off infection, and replicate properly. Specialists say that up to 70 percent of the toxins expelled from our body occur through exhalation. So another side effect of inadequate breathing? Impurities that are supposed to get released as you breathe out don’t all make it out. And if they don’t leave the body, they’re still floating around in there to cause harm.