By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – We breathe about 20,000 times a day.  Despite all that practice, most of us still manage to get it wrong.

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Doctor Roberta Lee said “because we are so chronically rushed, it’s a big problem.”  Doctors say learning to breathe in a more relaxed way allows us to take in more oxygen.  This can help our bodies fight off a number of serious medical conditions.

For example, relaxed breathing can lower stress levels and blood pressure.  It can also be beneficial in less obvious ways, such as reducing inflammation and improving asthma.

A recent study found asthma patients who practiced a relaxed breathing technique known as “Alternate Nostril Breathing” reduced their need for an inhaler by 86% when suffering from an attack.

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Doctor Lee says we typically take about 15-20 breaths a minute.  Rapid, shallow breathing can throw the body into a “fight or flight” mode.

Taking a few minutes a day to slow your breathing down to a rate of 6-10 breaths a minutes can have a positive impact.  Lee added, “It slows down the heart rate.  It stimulates the relaxation response in the automatic nervous system, and restoration begins.”

Some hospitals are instructing patients with diabetes, cancer, and chronic pain on the benefits of better breathing.

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Yoga instructor Jillian Friedman works with some of these patients.  “When we are tense, when we are in pain, when there is some sort of disease going on in the body, even in the mind, we tend to clench up on and hold onto it, and hang onto it.”

Paula Ebben