Firstly let’s get back to basics and outline why we breathe…
Breathing (or respiration, or ventilation) is the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly by bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide.
We breathe because oxygen is needed to burn the fuel (sugars and fatty acids) in our cells to produce energy. Oxygen is brought into the lungs via breathing, where it is transported by red blood cells to the entire body to be used to produce energy.
The lungs are pyramid-shaped, paired organs that are connected to the trachea, on the inferior surface, the lungs are bordered by the diaphragm. The right lung has 3 lobes and the left has 2.
So in a nutshell breath = life! At least this is what the yogis believe…and we tend to agree.
If we are not breathing correctly, or utilizing our full lung capacity then we are robbing our body of energy.
What is correct breathing?
Take a look at dogs and babies when they are relaxed. They are great examples of optimal diaphragmatic breathing. Their stomach protrudes as they inhale and collapses when they exhale.
Unfortunately the majority of people do not breath properly – we call this ‘reverse breathing’, where only the upper portion of the chest rises with an inhale and the full capacity of the lungs are not utilised.
Why is reverse breathing bad for you?
As mentioned before, if we are not breathing correctly, then we are robbing our body of energy. This means a reduction in brain function, loss of muscle power, decreased cell regeneration, poor posture, increased toxicity and increased stress!
Why do we reverse breathe?
The 2 main reasons for reverse breathing are ‘looking good’ – or sucking in your tummy (wearing tight clothes), or sympathetic dominance.
A bit of background info…your automatic nervous system controls all of the automatic functions in your body such as digestion, heart, lungs etc. It is broken up into 2 parts, your sympathetic and parasympathetic, or fight/flight and rest/digest.
When you are operating more from your sympathetic nervous system your breathing becomes shallow, your shoulders hunch, your blood supply gets diverted away from your gut and reproductive organs to your main muscles, to run away from the tiger.
Unfortunately in our modern day world, the tiger is the next deadline, the daily commute, the fight with your loved one, and all the sugar and caffeine we pour into our bodies!
OK, so how do we change it?
The first step in making change is awareness. Take notice of your breathing, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to check your breathing
Then practice correct diaphragmatic breathing. At least 15 minutes per day – last thing at night is ideal for a deep restful sleep. Imagine filling up a cup of water, breathe into your lower lobe (sticking out your tummy as the air fills your lungs), then fill your middle and upper lobes. Then exhale the air from your upper lobes first, finally squeezing the old air out of the lowest part of your lungs (by gently sucking in your tummy). It may seem strange at first, however the more you practice it the easier it will become. Practice everywhere, at the lights, waiting for the bus, queuing up shopping…
Box breathing – This is a simple technique to help you practice breathing correctly, balance the nervous system and calm the mind (where the breath goes the mind goes). Inhale for 7 counts, hold for 7 counts, exhale for 7 counts and hold out for 7 counts. Then continue this process for as long as you wish!
Challenge yourself to go longer and consciously notice the changes to your body and mind after completing your breathing practice. In the yogic world we call this pranayama.
Note that if you are finding it hard to breathe, it causes pain, or you have a chronic history of respiratory problems then we would recommend that you speak with your primary health care professional.
Here at Openspace Healing Fremantle we are dedicated to sharing with you the most up to date and relevant information so that you can take big leaps towards true vitality. So, if there is a particular topic you would like us to cover, make sure you let us know in the comments section below.
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Yours in great health,
Dr Andy & Dr Jacinta