Another basic bodily function which we perform each day and one that is often taken for granted, is breathing. I find it very strange that most of us pay no attention to something we do over 20,000 times daily – take a breath. Proper breathing technique is extremely important. Why?
- Breathing allows us to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen.
- We breath out CO2 and take in oxygen.
- We need a certain amount of carbon dioxide in our blood to maintain proper pH. So if we breathe too fast we do not let go of enough CO2.
- We tend to breathe quickly because we are used to taking breaths that are short in duration. If you watch a child sleep you will notice how they breathe using their stomach. It goes up and down. And their breaths are very long and deep.
- Most of us breathe using our chest and mouth instead of the diaphragm and nose.
- Panic breaths or short breaths allows too much CO2 to stay in our system and this can make us too alkaline.
It is interesting to note that by adjusting your breathing pattern, many people have brought their blood pressure back to normal. To breathe properly, you need to use your diaphragm, the large sheet-like muscle that lies at the bottom of the chest cavity.
To find your diaphragm, sit comfortably or lie on your back on the floor. Place your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your abdomen, in the ‘gap’ of your rib cage.
When you breathe in and out, your left hand should remain still and only your right hand should move up and down. If your left hand is moving, your breathing is too shallow and you are not using your diaphragm as you should. Try to alter your breathing so only your right hand moves as you do so.
Yoga instructors will tell you: one in-breath and one out-breath are one cycle. Try to slow your breathing down to eight to ten cycles per minute without breathing from your upper chest area. Aim to breathe slowly and smoothly.
Slow, rhythmic breathing will help regulate the flow of oxygen and CO2, slow the heart rate, easing anxiety, and ensure your circulation is carrying the optimum amount of nutrients around the body. Regulating your breathing will also help boost your performance during aerobic exercise as your muscles will be fully replenished with the right amounts of energy giving oxygen.
How then can you tell if you are breathing correctly:
- When you take air in your chest moves, indicating shallow incorrect breaths.
- Your rib cage does not expand out when you breath. Place your hands on the ribs and see how much they move during each breath. Tiny movements indicate shallow breathing.
- If you breathe with your mouth this indicates a poor breathing pattern.
- If your neck, chest and shoulder muscles are sore, they are being over worked by improper breathing.
- If you yawn a lot you are not getting enough oxygen and it may be breathing related.
- If you are resting you should only be breathing 15 times per minute. If you are breathing more than that, you are not breathing correctly.
- Poor posture indicates poor breathing. Leaning your head and or shoulders forward makes it difficult to breathe deeply.
Ways to improve your breathing technique:
- When breathing, make sure your shoulders are not moving. Let your stomach area do the work, not your head, neck and shoulders.
- Press on your chest when you breath. This helps prevent the chest from doing what the diaphragm should do.
- Practice breathing in through your nose and place your hands on your stomach so you can feel this area move as you breathe.
- As you take breaths in through your nose let your lips remain almost closed so very little air escapes as you exhale. This helps train you to take deeper better breaths.
- Practice blowing up balloons. This forces you to take deep and relaxing breaths that force more oxygen into your lungs and helps remind the body of how it should breath.
The famed medical doctor and alternative healer, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends three breathing exercises and has created videos to demonstrate how to do them.
There are many benefits to deep and proper breathing:
- Breathing is the primary way the body gets rid of toxins. In fact, 70% of them are released when we breathe.
- Breathing is the primary way we relieve stress.
- Breathing and oxygen intake makes us calmer and enables us to think more clearly.
- Breathing actually helps reduce any uneasy feelings we might have and makes mental problems seem far less important.
- Breathing can actually reduce pain levels.
- Breathing Massages Your Organs. The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massages the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. When you inhale air your diaphragm descends and your abdomen will expand. By this action you
- massage vital organs and improves circulation in them. Controlled breathing also
- strengthens and tones your abdominal muscles.
- Breathing brings oxygen to the brain and the muscles and increases muscle mass.
- Breathing makes the immune system function better. The oxygen rich blood carries nutrients to your cells.
- Breathing corrects posture issues. Breathing improves the blood by reducing CO2 and substituting Oxygen.
- Breathing improves our digestive system and helps food be assimilated better. 12.Breathing nourishes the entire central nervous system.
- Breathing exercises the lungs.
- It helps the heart become stronger. Deep breaths improve circulation and feed the muscle tissue.
- Better oxygen levels from breathing helps with weight control.
- Breathing boosts energy levels and gives us more endurance.
- Our moods our improved when we breathe deeper. We become more stable and more sure of ourselves.
- Breathing helps cells regenerate themselves.
A great way to improve and learn about breathing techniques is to practice Yoga. Look for a Yoga class where you live. Make every breath count.