You breathe 24/7. And you want my advice on breathing, why?
This article will focus on:
- Ideal Breathing Mechanics
- Why proper breathing is important
- Re-training your diaphragm
Ideal Breathing Mechanics
Was your mouth open?
Was your tongue resting on the bottom of your mouth?
Did it take under 5 seconds?
- Did your shoulders and chest expand more than your stomach?
If you answered yes to any of those criteria, you might want to read on…
There are many people with opinions on breathing techniques. I will not lay out all manner of breathing mechanics in this article, but here are some of the basics.
Through the Nose
Nasal breathing slows down the intake of air into the lungs. This gives time for the air to warm and moisten from the nasal passages.
Many people have sinus and nasal blockage as a cause for mouth-breathing. Other than having a cold, one should not have continuous nasal blockage or drainage. It could be a sign of deeper health issues such as a chronic infection or a whole host of other possibilities.
Do you pay attention to what your tongue does when you are not talking or chewing? It should be lightly resting on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth.
If your mouth was open, then this was incorrect for sure.
Therapists consider the research on this to be quite new. And from a randomized-controlled-trial point of view, it is. But this technique actually stems back thousands of years in Chinese Medicine.
This position of your tongue activates a certain string of deep muscles in the front of your neck. These neck muscles support activation of the diaphragm. If you are having trouble “feeling” your diaphragm, this is a must. Even if you breathe well most of the time, this is just a component of keeping the diaphragm balanced.
Slow and Relaxed
If you breathe fast, that can add another set of problems. Breathe slowly. A beginning goal is at least 3 seconds for an inhale, and 3 seconds for an exhale. Over time and practice that can increase.
Breathing slowly allows more time for oxygen and carbon dioxide to be exchanged with the blood. It also signals a stressed state of mind. Breathing fast occurs when stressed, but psychological or emotional tension will also increase breathing rate. So unless you lack stress, it is just worsening the issue.
With Your Diaphragm
The diaphragm is the muscle that connects to your lower ribs. When it contracts it pulls the lungs, heart, and chest down. Typically the stomach (abdomen) expands in all directions.
This opens the lower aspect of the lungs, activates multiple core muscles and increases parasympathetic tone. It is so important, the entire next section is dedicated to these benefits.
The Importance of [Diaphragmatic] Breathing
Why is diaphragmatic breathing different, you ask? Look no further. These are just a few things you will transform by breathing better.
Oxygen – ATP, ATP, & ATP
Sure, oxygen is important. Oxegen helps make ATP, the molecule that fuels a majority of the chemical reactions in the body. Getting oxygen is the main reason you breathe. Only 8 minutes without breathing can lead to irreversible brain damage.
If you can’t understand that math, you desperately need more oxygen for that brain of yours.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – pH and oxygen availability
“Carbon Dioxide is bad.” A faulty statement claimed by health gurus climate change activists alike. As any physiologist could tell you, carbon dioxide is more important than oxygen in the blood.
Long-term over-breathing can lead to a decrease in carbon dioxide and bicarbonate levels. Unstable blood pH and decreased cellular oxygen can result. Unless decreased energy is a goal for you, it’s something to avoid.
Parasympathetic Stimulus – Digestion and Repair
Your non-voluntary (autonomic) nervous system has two parts. The sympathetic system is active in “fight”, “flight”, or “fright” circumstances. The parasympathetic nervous system increases digestion and repair processes.
Chest breathing is more common in a sympathetic or stress situation. But, diaphragm breathing increases parasympathetic activity. This not only reduces stress but also increases the function of the majority of your internal organs. Once you recognize that, the impacts of breathing are endless.
Your Core of Movement – Pain and Movement
Nearly every major plane of fascia (connective tissue) in the body connects with the diaphragm in some way. Breath is simply a part of movement.
Diaphragmatic breathing puts tension on the transverse abdominis muscle. This is the muscle that surrounds the entire abdomen. If you want to talk about core strength, that starts here.
The core is the center and starting point for almost all body movements. A split second before moving your arm or taking a step your core muscles fire.
Core strength affects joint and low back pain considerably. Although the muscles in the back may feel “tight”, they are often over-reacting from a weak core. The same is often true with other joints like shoulders, hips, and even knees.
Re-train Your Diaphragm
Luckily as common as diaphragm problems are, they are not expensive to fix. In fact, you just do more of the same: breathe. Rather it is the way you breathe that begins the healing process.
Focussing on the items above is a great way to start.
Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. The tip just behind the front teeth.
Breathe in through your nose.
Fill your stomach (abdomen) outward. – Focus on the area of the belly button (navel).
At least 3 seconds inhale, 3 seconds exhale.
Work up to 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out.
Add pauses between inhales and exhales of 3 or 5 seconds as you progress
If you are having trouble letting your stomach rise and not your chest, try the following trick.
Another way is to imagine your breath sinking down into your body. It may feel awkward at first, but keep practicing it will seem normal soon enough.
Many times the diaphragm inactivates because of imbalances within the muscle. Changing your position can change this distortion and make it easier starting out.
Try lying on your back with your hands above your head. Or with your knees bent and pulled up to your chest.
If neither of those feel comfortable, try lying on your stomach. Many times propping yourself up on your elbows will do the trick.
Be creative. There is no direct “right” or “wrong” way.
Get Expert Advice
If you are still struggling, I highly suggest seeing a professional therapist. Someone who can do precise manual trigger point therapy is ideal. They can help to clear any causative factors that may be hindering the diaphragm. Afterward, they can coach you through full diaphragm activation. You may even learn some advanced breathing techniques for specific conditions.
Physicians certified in Systems Health Care is very adept at dealing with these issues. Certified Applied Kinesiologists are my second recommendation. But don’t let that restrict you. You never know who may lend some insight and a helping hand.
My main objective is for you to give time and focus to breathing. Merely understanding the benefits of each breath you take is a step toward total health. The impacts of breathing are too numerous to list, but at some point, you must list a few. More often than not, people breathe poorly because they have never been taught how.
Like a Baby
Like so much in regards to health, babies have it all figured out. A resting infant will breathe through their nose and with their diaphragm. Watch how their stomach will rise and fall as they breathe. Typically, only when they cry will they breathe with their chest. Once again, children have the wisdom. It is the stresses and injuries of life that lead to aging. Let’s begin reversing those by breathing!