How the way you breathe may be affecting your health
Breathing is the unconscious process of moving air in and out of our lungs to bring oxygen into our bodies and remove carbon dioxide. Because we do this without even thinking, you may not have stopped to pay much attention to the way you breathe.
Well, it’s time to start!
In this blog, I’d like to explain what can happen to our bodies when we’re not breathing correctly. Then, we’ll explore the benefits of better breathing and I’ll show you ways you can improve it.
“Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life.”
What problems can happen when we’re not breathing properly?
The cycle of an effective breath sees the abdomen area slowly expand (you can feel this if you place your hands around your lower ribs). Our diaphragm tightens, creating a vacuum and allowing our chest to expand and pull air in. When we exhale, the abdomen should slowly contract whilst our diaphragm relaxes, helping to push carbon dioxide-rich air from our bodies.
If you’re breathing effectively, you should notice that a breath is silent, smooth, steady in pace and controlled. You should feel you can get enough air without forcing things too much. Your body should feel relaxed.
The effects of poor breathing extend around our entire bodies. For example, if you’re feeling stressed and breathing shallow, you may notice increased tension around your collar bone area. This can then lead to head and neck pain or stiffness.
If you’re not breathing correctly, this can also reduce your body’s metabolic function (the transport and use of chemicals around the body), which can have several knock-on effects. For example, lack of energy for exercise, fatigue, poor concentration levels, and even increased blood pressure.
Conditions and environmental effects can reduce our breathing capability and lung function, such as COPD, smoking, air pollution, allergens and age. If not identified or managed correctly, these may lead to acute or chronic chest infections.
Seven benefits of better breathing
There are so many benefits of breathing correctly, including counteracting some of the issues we’ve just looked at. Other benefits include:
- Helping to slow a racing mind, especially if we count (see below)
- Opening a forward-leaning posture and creating space through the ribs and back
- Creating an environment for a more focused mind
- Making us more aware of our body
- Reducing the flight or fight response
- Lowering stress levels
- Reducing aches and pains around our neck, head, and shoulders.
How can we breathe better?
Take a few minutes to sit comfortably and focus on how you breathe.
What do you notice? Do you feel tension anywhere? Are your breaths slow and steady or shallow and rapid?
Try closing your eyes and breathing in for a count of 1-2-3-4, then out for 1-2-3-4, or what you can manage or feels comfortable, to begin with. You can start with a two-count breath (1-2) and then build to a three-count (1-2-3) and gradually increase your capacity to 1-2-3-4.
This deep breathing technique is handy if we feel anxious, as it can help ground us quickly. Please note that deep breathing isn’t a replacement for our regular breathing pattern. Instead, think of it as a tool to be used as and when needed. It’s commonly used whilst practising yoga and meditation, and is very useful when lifting heavy objects or weights.
The ability to breathe is a gift. Wake up grateful each day for that gift.
Book a discovery call!
I hope you found this blog useful and picked up some helpful hints and tips to try.
If you’d like to find out how to live a life without pain, get in touch to book a free discovery call.
Until next time.
Look after yourself.