How Important is it to Breathe Right?
Have you ever considered the healing power of proper breathing? There are 3 major necessities that you must have to sustain your life. Yes… they are pretty obvious… but most people don’t put too much thought into what’s in the food they eat, or knowing the purity of the water (even bottled), and the majority of us don’t spend a second thinking about how they breathe.
You can survive about 30 days without food and several days without water. You are a goner within 2 minutes without air. We take it for granted… or not… but, wearing COVID masks have more people focused on the air that they breathe.
Breathe is nearer and dearer to you than the most money in the world. It is always with you. If you lose your breath, you lose everything. Controlling your breathing helps you lead a richer life by helping you eliminate waste and maximize your oxygen intake. It also helps relieve anxiety and can calm your mind and improve your mood.
Do You Breathe Properly?
Most people live most of their lives without proper breathing. Unhealthy habitual breathing patterns can create tension and keep your chest from fully expanding. Poor respiratory habits can wreak havoc on your physical, mental, and emotional health. On top of that… VIRUSES AND BACTERIA go bananas when your body is oxygen-deprived. Shallow breathing also is a major culprit to many chronic stress-related conditions.
Look at the people around you. You will notice that many people are only half-breathing. I do this too. My cat is practicing proper breathing as I write this. Animals do this naturally. Maybe we are so smart that we have forgotten how to breathe properly. Humans are always thinking Is this why we are off-track with our breathing patterns?
Posture habits are also a major offender of poor breathing methods. Humans were not designed to sit all day in an office or stay in couch potato mode for six hours a day.
Picture this… you’re at work glued to a PC (or surfing at home)… Your shoulders are rounded forward and you have collapsed your chest and rib cage (and I caught myself doing that writing while this post)… you thrust your neck forward… your torso and back muscles tighten up… your middle back muscles, which are needed for good posture, stretch and get weak… hip flexors tighten and abdominal weaken…this pulls on your lower spine and tightens your lower back… your abdominal weaken and this could lead to an anterior pelvic lift.
After staying in a hunched over position for an extended period of time, your diaphragm is unable to contract well and create a vacuum. Your lungs are unable to expand to full capacity. Your weakened abs can’t push the air back out efficiently. The end result… your oxygen intact is far from optimal.
Without enough oxygen, you put yourself at risk for numerous health problems. Fatigue can develop. Falling asleep at the wheel happens when you are fatigued. This may also put stress on your heart, and lungs.
Stress on your heart and lungs may elevate your body’s cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, mood swings, and sleep deprivation. This leads to your having trouble with decision-making and mental focus.
What are some Common Obstacles to Good Breathing?
- Stuffed nose or sinuses
- Tightness in your chest
- Tight-fitting clothing
- Full stomach and/or intestinal bloating
- bad posture
- excessive nervous tension
What are the Benefits of Better Breathing Practices?
- Fights fatigue and reduces your need for sleep
- Relaxes your body and reduces tension
- Boosts your personal power and ability to handle pressure and stress
- Amps up your immunity and your body’s natural healing ability
- Hikes up your mental clarity and concentration
- Ability to mellow out and master your emotional response
- Maximizes your verbal delivery by strengthening your voice
- increases your energy and stamina
The Body-Breathe-Mind Connection
Your breath is joined at “the hip” with your body and mind. Your everlasting thoughts, actions, and emotions experienced have an impact on your breathing. For example, your breathing speeds up when you get excited. Your body’s natural response prior to taking action. Surprise may cause you to inhale sharply. This blasts oxygen to your brain to promote quick thinking.
Most people hold their breath when they concentrate hard. A cat lays completely still as he prepares to pounce on a songbird. The cat’s concentration is so intense that she barely breathe… Children are still in touch with the body-mind connection. If a child noticed an adult breathing irregularly, he would say “what’s wrong?”
This is not taught. It is instinctual. By practicing breathing exercises, you tap into this instinctive knowledge. You will get in touch with how powerfully your breathing impacts your mind and body. You will find the ability to control unhealthy patterns of breathing, thinking, and acting.
Understanding your Breathing
Yea, I know, a basic element of life. But, does anyone really stop to think about the breathing process. Inhalation is automatic, however, most of us don’t inhale fully. As your lungs swoop in air, precious oxygen passes into your body.
Exhalation of air from your lungs expels gaseous waste products like carbon dioxide. Your lungs have a secondary function as an organ of excretion. Exhalation also helps your mind and body adjust to change.
There is a transitional period between inhalation and exhalation called retention. When you inhale and hold your breathe in, the rate of gaseous exchange in your lungs goes up as a result of an increase in pressure. What does this mean? More oxygen is able to pass from your lungs to your bloodstream. Meanwhile… carbon dioxide passes from your blood to your lungs to be exited from your body.
The pause after an out-breath is also called retention. This breathing technique is used in numerous breathing exercises (yoga is chocked-full of these goodies). It has a profound calming effect when employed.
How Your Breathe Works
Every time you inhale, your respiratory system performs its first duty… supplying air to your lungs. The oxygen within the air is absorbed into your bloodstream and precedes to flow to every cell in your body. Your cell would die withing minutes with receiving oxygen.
The secondary function of your respiratory system is cleansing. Each exhale pushes out gaseous waste … sounds gross… right! The breathing process leaves you exposed to the outside environment like no other part of your body. A plethora of pollutants and germs are swirling around the air. It makes little sense when I spot joggers running right next to busy highways… breathing in noxious carbon monoxide. Do your best to breathe in fresh air whenever possible.
Why you should breathe through your nose
Nature, in its innate wisdom, designed your nose as the primary entry point of extracting air from the atmosphere. It acts as a guard dog in the first line of defense. Your nose warns you of impending danger through your sense of smell. It alerts you of dangerous air, rotten food, or bad water.
Your nose is also designed as a filter. It helps halt dust and other particles from entering the delicate lining of your lungs. Your nostrils are lined with microscopic hairs that help cleanse the air before proceeding into your lungs. Mouth breathing does not offer the same benefits. You could end up with a dry mouth, sore throat, or catch a cold if you practice too much mouth breathing. You should only turn to mouth breathing when you have a stuffed nose or to blast air immediately into your lungs when you have pushed yourself to the limit physically, such as running.
Nose breathing also protects your respiratory system by humidifying incoming air, which keeps the mucous membranes of your respiratory passages moist. This creates a second line of defense by capturing more particles on the wet and sticky surface before it can enter your lungs.
Regular nose breathing brings your inhaled air to body temperature. Cold air irritates your respiratory system. Breathing through your nose also helps with your sinuses. Clear sinuses lead to good air circulation and help you avoid headaches.
Why you Should Quit Smoking
I am not out to cure the world of the horrors of smoking, But I feel like I should give it a quick mention since this post is about how to breathe right. Smoking is still legal and 13% of U.S. citizens practice their rights.
Smoking tobacco is harmful to every organ in the body. It is really hard on your respiratory system. My mom stopped smoking in 1994, but not in time. She suffers from COPD.
Breathing exercises will not cure you of smoking, however, they can assist you in your quest to stop. Breathing exercises help cleanse your respiratory system and help you feel rejuvenated. Power breathing exercises can also help you build will power by tapping into the calming effect of deep breathing along with the joy of experiencing deep breathing again.
How to Get Yourself to Breathe Naturally
If you are out of touch with how to breathe naturally or have never really thought about it, you have to retrain or train yourself on how to breathe properly. Here is a simple diaphragmatic breathing exercise to get you started.
- Lie down flat on your back on the floor. Use a yoga mat or a blanket if you would like. It is okay to lift your legs with a pillow Whatever is comfortable for you.
- Let your chest expand naturally. Your shoulder blades should touch the floor, and place your hand on your abdomen just below your ribs. Place your other hand on your chest.
- Begin inhaling slowly. Pay attention to your stomach rising and the pressure pushing on your hand. Keep your hand on your chest still.
- Now… slowly exhale while tightening your abdominal muscles. Feel the pressure on your hand decrease.
You can practice the above exercise to get used to breathing right, but I suggest exploring some breathing techniques as taught in yoga. A good place to start is long deep breathing. This is basically taught in any meditation class or exercise.
What can long deep breathing do for you? It will calm your mind and even out your emotions. You may reach a state of serenity and peace with practice. You can use long deep breathing in everyday situations to relieve stress and to get a handle on your emotions, think clearly, and act effectively. The slower you breathe, the calmer your mind.
You can do this lying on your back or sitting up straight. (or yoga style) The key… keep your spine straight. Now, inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Feel as though you are pulling your breath down to your navel center (belly button). As the breathing starts to fill up your lungs, your diaphragm will expand (your belly should push out) A lot of people will do this backward… sucking the gut in. You want to push the belly out for full expansion.
Now keep inhaling all the way up to your lungs as your belly expands like a balloon. When you exhale, let all the air out (slowly). Feel your abdomen push in towards your navel center.
Use your whole lung capacity. Make every inhale and exhale as long and full and complete as possible. The real challenge is to stay with the exercise. Our minds tend to wander or you become so relaxed that you begin to nod out. This is because, when you slow down your breath, you also slow down your mind into a state of deep relaxation.
Note: Keep your abdominal muscles relaxed and let the breath move your abdomen naturally. Your diaphragm should be doing all the work. You can explore yoga if you would like to learn some techniques to help channel the focus of your mind, but try out long deep breathing. You really do feel refreshed after doing it. Below is a video demonstrating long deep breathing.
Remembering to breathe properly is challenging. My mind tends to often wonder. Anytime I can slow down and concentrate on my breathing is a win for my health and well-being. In karate, I use a lot of short bursts of breath. You are moving fast, but breathing is the main focus in all martial arts. In karate, there are also katas designed with long deep breathing to place your self in a meditative state.
Tai Chi is another good option. It is a slow, soft style of martial art that helps you develop chi. Your inner hidden energy. In the toga world, it is called prana. Tai Chi is basically a moving meditation utilizing slow breathing techniques.
Once you begin to practice techniques daily, you will find moments to slow down and get control of your breath. It is an excellent tool for getting control back from runaway emotions.
Covid-19 has presented some oxygen-deprived scenarios for many of us. Wearing a mask may lean more towards acidosis in your bloodstream. Please consider counter-attacking with a good breathing technique. Oxygen is so important for your blood. Check out one of my earlier posts on a yoga breathing technique called breathe-of-fire. It is excellent at purifying your blood.
Take advantage of the world wide web and watch some YouTube videos on the subject. It is much easier to learn breathing techniques with little visual guidance. Breathing meditations provide you with the best natural high. You can alter your mind in a good healthy way without all those awful side effects and consequences… just saying.