When you own your Breath,
nobody can steal your peace.
The importance of breathing right is often overlooked. Because it has measurable effects on your physical and mental wellbeing, it represents a wonderful area of opportunity for most of us; simple breathing techniques covered here can have amazing, positive, short-term, and long-term results in your health.
There are several things that you can do to incorporate healthy breathing techniques into your daily life, beyond the often talked about “few-minutes a day” sessions that do help, but that in isolation, fall short of materializing the full potential of breathing right all day.
So why is the way we breathe relevant anyway?
It’s important to understand what happens to your body when you breath the wrong way. We’ll explore the positive side of breathing right immediately afterwards.
– Incorrect breathing patterns can be stressful for the body; for example, over-breathing, holding your breath, and shallow breathing can lead to shortness of oxygen and energy
– Short and forced breathing patterns tense the body and increase stress; it also leads to feelings of anxiety
– Blood vessels may constrict when breathing incorrectly, increasing blood pressure and making the heart work harder
– Incorrect breathing patterns negatively impacts your sleep, which in turn has negative consequences on your physical and mental states
– When experiencing pain, breathing the wrong way actually increases its intensity
– Bad breathing habits lessen your body’s ability to deliver oxygen into your cells; when cells are not receiving adequate amounts of oxygen, they become stressed and places them in survival mode, not development mode
– All body processes rely on oxygen, which means that breathing incorrectly may have a negative impact on your mental state; incorrect breathing can lead to depression and other mental conditions that may, in turn, have a further negative impact on your health. It is a vicious cycle that prevents you from achieving your fullest potential
– Your brain consume about 20% of the oxygen that enters your lungs. Shortness of oxygen forces the brain to work more slowly, and because the brain regulates many body processes (consciously and unconsciously), this could have a negative impact on many of your body’s functions
– Your heart beats around 95,000 times a day, and requires a lot of oxygen to function properly; poor breathing habits affect the heart’s ability to pump blood, which has negative consequences throughout your body. Cold feet and hands may be a symptom of this
– Your muscles may become stiff, tense, and may tire a lot faster when not enough oxygen enters your blood stream
– There are many other negative consequences brought about by incorrect breathing patterns, such as to your teeth and gum, posture, mental outlook, spinal chord integrity, etc… Suffice to say that breathing incorrectly is certainly not in your best interest!
What are the positive consequences of breathing right?
– Increases your body’s oxygen intake, which allows cells and organs to function at their fullest potential and without stress
– Improves the quality of your sleep, which in turn has many positive consequences to your physical and mental wellbeing
– Helps improve eating habits, leads to adequate G.I. function, improves learning, increases your ability to cope with stress, lowers inflammation, and can reduce pain
– Reduces anxiety
– Can reduce and even eliminate feelings of depression and low self-esteem, as well as provide a calming effect that leads to clarity of mind
– Improves your posture
– Strengthens your Immune System
– Allows you to better react and cope with life’s curve balls
– Provides your brain, heart, and other key organs with all the oxygen they need so that they may function at their fullest potential
– Allows your muscles to develop properly and to function at optimum levels, given your particular physical state of health
– Greatly improves your digestive processes
How NOT to breathe
It is recommended to stay away from the following negative breathing habits and/or patterns, among many others:
– Shallow breathing. This means taking short breaths, where the air only reaches your upper chest area; this usually implies a rapid breathing pattern as well — it’s your body’s way of trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen
– Constantly breathing through the mouth
– Rising your shoulders and tensing your neck and shoulder area when taking deep breaths; this actually creates tension and increases your levels of stress
– Breathing in a slumped position; this typically happens when spending too much time in a sitting position
How to breath correctly
So how should you breathe throughout the day? The following list includes some of the most common patterns that helps you satisfy your body’s oxygen needs:
1. Breathe with the diaphragm! The air you breathe should reach all the way down into the depths of your belly. Remember, do not rise your shoulders, and make sure that your neck and shoulder area is relaxed as you take these conscious, deep breaths. Think of how a baby breaths while sleeping, and how their bellies rise and fall with every breath they take
2. It is recommended that you breathe through your nose for several reasons: this warms the air so that your lungs do not get a blast of cold air, and it filters out dangerous bacteria and other impurities that would otherwise reach the lungs
3. Breathe with a rhythm in mind. Your body operates in rhythmic patterns, and so should your breathing. We each have unique, optimal breathing rhythms, but when implementing the suggestions listed here, it will automatically emerge in you. Of course, depending on the physical activities that you are engaged in, the rhythm will differ
4. Breathe in a relaxed way! This provides a mechanism for reducing stress, anxiety, and tension, paving the way to feeling more relaxed, increasing your energy levels, and in the end, a happier you; just remember, do breath all the way so that your belly extends fully
5. Between 65% and 80% of the inhaling process should be done with your diaphragm. This allows adequate gas exchange inside your lungs; massages your liver, stomach, and intestine, giving these important organs a rhythmical balance; reduces belly and chest pressure, allowing the heart to work unhindered; helps the lymphatic system — critical for your immune system — by helping it rid of waste products found in the bowels
6. Try to breathe silently; making various noises while breathing affects your pattern and rhythm in a negative way
How to breathe correctly 24/7?
Now that we’ve covered how not to breathe and how to breathe correctly, as well as how this impacts your health, it’s time to explore the different ways in which you may improve your breathing patterns, day and night.
– Remember, breathe through your nose! Keep your mouth closed as you breathe; it may help to keep your tongue close to your palate. If your nose is not clear, you may need to perform a rinse (consult with your physician for the correct way of doing this in order to prevent infections)
– Keep your posture straight: this allows your diaphragm to work optimally (it will have enough room to do its thing!). Make sure your shoulders remain relaxed as well as your neck area. This will have a positive impact on your mental state to boot!
– Breathe consciously. It is important to periodically become aware of how you are breathing, and to control your breathing from that moment on as well. It is particularly important to do this often when you first start out to improve your breathing patterns. Then, as time goes by and breathing right becomes second nature, this need may be reduced
– Exhale in an extended way. This increases your level of relaxation and provides rhythm to your breathing pattern. An optimal breathing pattern consists of an inhale that lasts between 2 and 3 seconds, and an exhale that lasts between 3 and 4 seconds, followed by a pause of between 2 and 3 seconds.
– Evaluate your posture and your state of mind. Breathing correctly requires a body posture that is relaxed and comfortable. Make sure that you are not sitting in a slouched position, and that you are not tense and stressed. Consciously thinking and evaluating your physical posture and your mental state gives you the opportunity to positively change it!
As always, make sure that you consult with your physician (health care professional) for any health conditions that may apply to you.
Want to research more on this topic?
Three Breathing Exercises And Techniques by Dr. Weil
Yoga – How to Breathe Properly by The Secrets of Yoga