Breathing is the first thing you did when you were born and it is one of these actions you WILL have to do for the rest of your life! It must be important, right? Why not breathe in the most effective fashion…
The principle goal of breathing is to create an optimum balance between the amount of Oxygen (O2) you breathe in and the amount of Carbon Dioxide ( CO2) you breathe out. Oxygen is vital for life (try holding your breath and you will quickly see…), every cell in your body needs oxygen to live. “Oxygen is used by the body for cellular respiration and other uses and carbon dioxide is a product of these processes.”
Straight forward enough so far, right?
The way you breathe in and out is what we want to discuss today.
The most natural and effective way to breathe is Diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a dome shape muscle at bottom of your rib cage. As you breathe in, your diaphragm moves downward into your stomach. This increases the space in your chest cavity, into which your lungs can then expand. By moving downward, your diaphragm will push down against the organs in your stomach which will make your belly expand as you breathe in.
Simply observe how young babies breathe – they will use their diaphragm/belly with each breath.
But as we age, poor posture, anxious thinking, tension and simply not being aware of the importance of the proper use of the diaphragm will result in rapid – upper chest breathing patterns – which are not effective.
Too many members of the adult population are not recruiting their diaphragm effectively when breathing? Time to change this, starting with you!
As you are reading this, pay attention to your breathing. You’ll know if your breathing is not right if one or more of the following happens:
- Your neck and shoulders are moving while breathing
- Your breathing is shallow and you can feel your upper chest and/or neck muscles contacting with each breath
- Your resting breathing rate is fast such as more than 20 breaths a minute (normal is 8 to 15)
Negative effects of shallow – chest breathing are, among other things:
- Poor oxygen supply to your brain and every cells in your body
- Breathlessness and difficulty breathing under minimal stress load
- Easily distracted, agitated mind and emotions
You will know if you are using correct and effective diaphragmatic breathing when:
- Your stomach expands with each breath intake and falls with each exhale
- Your chest and neck muscles are motionless during your breathing process
- You can easily control your breathing rate to 6 to 8 breaths per minute.
The positive benefits of effective diaphragmatic breathing are:
- Improved mental focus and clarity by increasing blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex of your brain
- Increased sense of control over shortness of breath
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased exercise endurance
- Reduced anxiety and/or depression
- Increased secretion of growth hormone which helps slowing down the aging process
- Facilitates weight loss by balancing stress hormones with anabolic hormones
- … you get my point that it is good for you!
If you are already practicing diaphragmatic breathing, Well Done! Keep doing it and you can stop reading now.
For the people who have realized that their breathing is not as good as it could be (some studies say as much as half the adult population are not recruiting their diaphragm properly!) PLEASE keep reading.
Since you were, most likely, breathing correctly as a child, there are many different reasons why you have switched to shallow/chest breathing along the way. No point in dwelling in the past,. Let’s just focus on what you can do, starting today, to re-teach your body how to use your diaphragm to initiate the breathing process.
Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to re-learn diaphragmatic breathing:
- Find a quiet place to lie down on your back and relax with your knees and head supported. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as motionless as possible.
- Then gently tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale. The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.
When you first re – learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be best for you to do it while lying down. As soon as you begin to improve, you can do it while sitting down and finally standing. Practice makes perfect!
Statistics shows that a person at rest takes 12 breaths per minute. This means about 720 breaths an hour, 17,280 breaths a day, 6,307,200 breaths a year.
We do believe it is well worth the effort to re-learn to breath effectively.
Breathe Better – Train Smarter – Not Harder!
Michel & Svetlana