Are You Breathing Well?

Breathing is the one thing that connects all living beings on this Earth.  All people breathe, in fact after reading this you are probably aware of your own breathing at this very moment.  How very sad that so few of us know how to breathe properly.

What do you mean I’m not breathing correctly?

Odds are you probably aren’t.  To find out, take this following test.

  1. Place a hand flat on your abdomen near your navel.
  2. Place your other hand flat across your chest, right below your sternum.
  3. Breathe as naturally as you can without trying to force anything (might be hard now that you are paying attention to it)
  4. Do this for a few breathes and notice which hand moves more.
If you are like most people the hand on your chest moved more.  If this is the case then lucky you!  Time to learn how to improve your breathing.

Improved Breathing

What you are going to learn is called diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing in less technical circles.  Here is a really nice tutorial from the American Medical Student Association.

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
  • After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.
  • Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe at a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute). At this rate our heart rate variability increases which has a positive effect on cardiac health.
Once you feel comfortable with the above technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples would be to say to yourself the word, relaxation (with inhalation) and stress or anger (with exhalation). The idea being to bring in the feeling/emotion you want with inhalation and release those you don’t want with exhalation.

Many people recommend this as a deep breathing exercise to be repeated throughout the day, but all you over achievers reading can take this one step further.

With practice you can train your subconscious to breathe from your belly instead of your chest at all times.  I know it can be done because last year I started doing this and after a few weeks my body just naturally followed suit.  I can personally verify that the studies showing this technique calms you down are true.

Belly breathing is a simple thing to practice and who doesn’t want to be more calm and present in their every day life?