Regular, conscious breath-holding exercises bring psychological and physiological benefits.
Holding your breath leads to an increase in carbon dioxide, which is a vasodilator. Dilation of blood vessels throughout the body lowers the blood pressure and induces a state of relaxation. Increasing carbon dioxide level by slowing down exhalations and briefly holding the breath helps alleviate certain conditions such as asthma, panic attack and anxiety.
It also helps to increase your focus and turn inward, blocking all external distractions. Holding your breath soothes the mind as it is really difficult to think of anything else as you wait for taking the next breath.
Breath retention constitutes a large part of pranayama exercises— or the yogic science of breath restraint. The ancient yogic text of Sutras states: “The mind obtains serenity through prolonged exhalation and suspension of breath”.
The time you can comfortably hold your breath is an indicator of overall health, athletic performance and how strong your heart is. Incorporating short breath holds while exercising helps to gradually improve your performance.
It is important to note that unconsciously holding your breath in your daily life may lead to chronic stress.