Breathing is, in it’s very basic form, an automatic human function. We all breathe, but it’s how we breathe that is important. Breathing is often referred to as the bridge between the body and the mind.
Why efficient breathing matters?
Benefits of efficient breathing:
- Relaxation – deep breathing calms the nervous system and releases muscle tension that can help you to relax. It also promotes better sleep.
- Improves the cardiovascular system – deep diaphragmatic breathing tones, massages and increases circulation to the heart, liver, brain and reproductive organs, stimulating them and promoting their healthy and optimal function. It also lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Maintain blood pH levels – shallow breaths can cause an imbalance by leaving the body oxygen deprived and leaving excessive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, leading to an overly acidic state. Deep, slow breathing helps continuously optimize pH levels.
- Reduces anxiety The quality of our breath helps to relax the mind and enhance the ability to learn, focus, concentrate and memorize. It also relieves stress, anxiety, depression and negative thought patterns.
- Improved digestion – the benefits of deeper breathing include increased blood flow in the digestive tract, which encourages intestinal action and improves overall digestion, alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
- Increased energy – due to increased blood flow, we get more oxygen into our blood. Increased oxygen results in increased energy levels.
- Stimulates lymphatic system – one of the key functions of your lymphatic system is to flush toxins out of your body. As our breathing is what moves the lymph, shallow breathing can lead to a sluggish lymphatic system, which will not detoxify properly. Deep breathing will help you get the lymph flowing properly so that your body can work more efficiently.
- It improves your core muscle strength.
So how can we breathe efficiently?
The principles of efficient breathing are:
- Breathe through the nose – You can think of your nose as a little factory that refines and prepares the air coming in to be used by the body as efficiently as possible.
- Breathe with the diaphragm – The air you breathe in through your nose should inflate all of the lung tissue. This helps your lungs with the gas exchange because it is much more efficient in the lower parts of the lungs. The chest becomes more relaxed, and so does the neck and shoulders.
The term “diaphragmatic breathing” refers to a type of breathing in which the focus is engaging the diaphragm as fully as possible and expanding the rib cage and muscles of the abdomen. This can be seen as an expansion (ballooning) of the abdomen during inhalation, and a contraction (flattening) of the abdomen during exhalation. Because of these visible changes, diaphragmatic breathing is also commonly referred to as “abdominal breathing”.
- Breathe whilst relaxed – Since your breathing reflects your thoughts and feelings, situations that make you feel tense may also lead to tensed and stressed breathing pattern. That way of breathing then leads to a lack of oxygen, which in turn, makes your body and brain even more stressed. Watch yourself in the mirror while you breathe. See for yourself how much better you feel when you drop and relax those shoulders.
- Breathe silently without force and do not hold breath – What takes our breath away? We do! Too often we respond to a stimulus from the world outside ourselves by stopping our breath. As we hold our breath, we starve our body. Without breathing properly, we can’t deliver oxygen to the lungs; they can’t oxygenate the blood returning to the lungs; and the heart can’t pump revitalized blood.
These steps can help you to retrain your breathing:
You can sit or lie down, whatever you feel comfortable with.
- Breathe in deeply and slowly through the nose, close your mouth and place tongue on the roof of your mouth. Let the tongue tip hit the back of the upper teeth. Avoid teeth clenching.
- Look straight ahead, imagine that your neck becomes long.
- Do not raise the shoulders when inhaling. Fill the belly full with air on inhalation. Do not pull belly in on inhalation. Breathe more from the belly and less form the shoulders and neck.
- Let the chest rise naturally as air rushes in.
- Let the sides of the ribs push out on inhalation.
- Strengthen the abdomen and deliver more oxygen by prolonging the exhalation. Breathe out through slightly pursed lips with just a small opening in the center of your lips. Think in terms of blowing out a candle but do not that too forcefully.
- Relax. Become aware of any tensions going on at this moment and let them go. With practice, you can learn to breathe into the tense areas of your body and areas where you hold your pain and release them out with every exhalation.