Are you breathing correctly?
Let me ask this question another way. Can you name something you do every minute of your life, that you may not be doing the right way?
When we are born it just comes naturally. We take free, complete breaths that fill up our lungs with life-giving oxygen.
But through the years, we start to fall victim to certain situations and habits which are not conducive to proper, healthy respiration.
Our instincts become inhibited by unnatural living conditions.
Some prime examples of this are:
- The fast-paced and stressful task of making a living.
- Sitting for hours hunched over the computer or watching tv.
- Poor diet and over-consumption of energy drinks that cause our blood pressure to increase and the heart to speed up.
- Pollutants present in the envirinment around us.
- Not enough exercise or physical activity.
- Trying to do too many things at one time.
…well, you get the idea!
What this leads to is the typical person only using about one third of his/her lung capacity.
Practicing some basic breathing exercises daily, however, increases the amount of oxygen getting into your lungs, and subsequently improves your overall health and well-being.
You can do them when you wake up in the morning or before going to bed. You can even practice these exercises while on break at work.
Simply put, you need to breathe…deeply and often!
Learning How To Breathe
We don’t usually think about our breathing until it becomes labored.
Climbing up a few flights of stairs or running to catch the bus suddenly makes us aware of this vital process.
In our quest for self-improvement, we likely devote our attention to strength and flexibilty training, or other practices to enhance the physical form.
Some individuals like to try new diets regularly.
But very few of us give any thought to bettering our breathing.
The optimal number of breaths per minute is 10 or less deep ones, though the average person pumps out around 15.
Slower breathing has several positive benefits, such as increasing our heart-rate variability. This is measured by the fluctuation of the heartbeat during certain activities.
What it boils down to is your system being much more adaptable under pressure.
It can also activate the primary cranial nerve, called the vagus nerve, which we often associate with recuperative effects.
Additionally, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes involved when we drop our beath count to below 10 breaths per minute.
When this happens, people tend to experience a pleasant state of equilibrium in their body.
Understanding the importance of breathing correctly can assist you during difficult situations.
Imagine you’re having a really bad week at work. Your boss is on your case, things keep going wrong, and it just seems like there’s not enough time to get everything done!
Under this kind of stress, you will start to notice your breathing becoming more shallow.
You are taking in oxygen from the chest instead of the lower part of your lungs, which can cause you to feel breathless as a result.
Likewise, the pulse starts to rise along with your blood pressure because of the increasing levels of adrenaline and cortisol taking place.
Now is a perfect opportunity to practice some deep breathing.
Doing so will help you relax the body and regain balance throughout your entire system.
But that’s not all!!!
If you’re a bit grumpy or lacking energy, simply focusing on the breath can provide a quick boost.
By pausing a few moments to straighten up your posture and take a couple of deeeeep, full breaths, you can flood the brain with feel-good hormones called oxytocin and prolactin.
Give mindful breathing a try and you will discover these and other pleasurable benefits!
Easy Breathing Exercise
I am now going to share an example of a conscious breathing exercise.
There are others, but this is a great way to get started if you’ve never practiced these before.
Here we go!!!
Step 1: Lie down flat on your back and close your eyes. Take a deep ihalation through the nose for a count of 6 seconds.
Step 2: Hold that breath for 3 seconds.
Step 3: Breath out slowly through the nose for 6 seconds, and pause again for 3 seconds.
Step 4: Now breath in deeply and slowly for a count of 8 seconds, feeling your abdomin gently expand as you do so.
Step 5: Hold for 3 seconds.
Step 6: Completely exhale through your nose for 8 seconds, and hold again for 3.
Step 7: Continue the exercise by increasing your count by 2 seconds, without forcing it, for as long as you can.
If you get to 12 seconds on the inhale and exhale, practice that way for 10 repetitions.
It sounds easy, but this is a very powerful method to introduce conscious breathing into your life.
Over time, you may start to notice you are sleeping better. Your circulation and cardiac output can improve, lower heart rate and blood pressure is possible, clearer thinking and a jacked up metabolism…are just a few of the positive side-effects some people realize from these techniques!
Putting It All Together
Teaching yourself to breathe better, the way nature intended, is really a process of re-learning.
It’s all about fighting off the effects of a modern, sedentary lifestyle too many of us have subconsciously slipped into.
Breathing correctly can in fact be a significant part of your overall holistic and wellness program.
Stop using those weaker intercostal breathing muscles and instead, let your diaphragm do the work.
Start living better today!