Do you ever really think about breathing?
Usually not, due to us believing that we breathe without having to think about it. But, when we do breathe, are we breathing correctly?
Unlike the heart rate, the breath can be consciously controlled and therefore how we breathe is directly connected to our current health and fitness. Surely then, if we learn how to breathe much more efficiently then we should feel greater benefits from both everyday life as well as any workout that we may be doing.
We need to train ourselves to breathe deeply into the lungs. This helps to make sure that an adequate supply of oxygen enters the body. This supply of oxygen will travel around the body and replenish our brain and muscles.
If we only breathe with a shallow breath, we will often find that we can experience increased stress and anxiety levels. Signs that we are breathing incorrectly can show itself as stress and fatigue, due to the body not getting the correct amount of oxygen. Stress can also make us breathe shallower, in fact often only into the top third of our lungs. This creates hyperventilation due to a poor gaseous exchange within the body which in turn increases stress levels. In fact, breathing mirrors what is happening within our body and mind. Taking deeper breaths can create calmness within the body and the mind. Also gaseous exchange is much more efficient in the lower section of the lungs. Shallow breathing which is felt in the upper part of the chest, creates a smaller intake of breath. Signs of this can be; sighing, yawning or feeling the need to take deep breaths every so often.
So...how should we breathe???
We need to make sure that we breathe efficiently by using the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle which forms the base of the chest cavity.
When we are sleeping, we usually breathe correctly. If you ever see children, or even animals sleeping, you should notice that their abdomens will rise as they inhale and fall as they exhale. When we are awake we often alter our breathing even though we do not plan to. This often causes us to breathe shallower into the upper chest. Whereas the upper chest should stay quite still during breathing and the lower ribs should move. To ensure correct breathing we should feel the ribcage expand widthways and the abdomen rise.
At rest we take approximately 6 – 12 breaths per minute. When exercising our breathing rate can increase by up to 40 – 60 breaths per minute. So, if we can re-train ourselves to breathe correctly and take the breath deeper into the lungs, we should see our ability to move around increase, be that when exercising or just generally. During exercise your aerobic performance should increase and hopefully in general you should feel stress and anxiety levels reduce. Of course breathing correctly cannot solve all stress and anxiety problems alone, but it may just help you to make a step towards dealing with things differently.
How about trying this exercise….no equipment needed….no specific gymwear….. just you and a space.
Lie supine (on your back), either on the bed or the floor
Place one hand on the abdomen
Take a deep breath in
Did you feel the abdomen rise and fall?