It might sound silly but there’s a good chance if you’re reading this, you’ve been breathing incorrectly all these years.
When we breathe, our diaphragm muscle contract to allow a reduced pressure in the upper body so that air may enter the lungs and provides tension across the top of the abdominal area. But this is where some of us go wrong, believe it or not.
We are all born with the ability to take full breaths, but as we get older we forget how to breathe properly whether it’s through poor posture, tight clothing, smoking, high blood pressure, stress and anxiety, lack of exercise or pollution.
To properly breathe, your stomach should rise slightly as your diaphragm contracts and compresses the abdominal space. As you breathe out, both your chest and stomach need to fall.
However most adults do it the opposite way: their chest rises as their muscles contract. Yet, the stomach is drawn in, reducing the volume of oxygen available by only partially expanding the lungs. Over time, breathing like this will cause your diaphragm to weaken, making you more susceptible to respiratory issues.
So how can you breathe properly again? Here’s some techniques:
Most people take about 15 breaths per minute, but when you’re nervous or excited, this can increase. Try to aim for six or seven slow, deep ones by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, while keeping your stomach relaxed. To help yourself focus, slowly say (in your head) ‘soft’ while inhaling, and ‘belly’ as you breathe out.
Alternate nostril breathing
Lower your pulse rate and blood pressure by alternate nostril breathing. All you need to do is sit crosslegged and close your eyes. Use the thumb of your right hand to block your right nostril, and inhale deeply through the left for about six seconds. Now, cover your left nostril with the fourth finger of your right hand, release your right nostril, and exhale slowly for six seconds. With your left nostril blocked, breathe in through your right side for six seconds; then cover your right nostril again, release your left, and exhale for six seconds. Repeat for two minutes.
If you have allergies, open up your sinuses with this breath. It will make it easier for those who sound or feel nasal-y. Take a deep breath through your nose, then let out a humming noise as you exhale through your nose. You should feel a vibration in your nose, as well as in your chest and head.
Relearn how to breathe naturally
Do this exercise five times a day and feel great:
1. Inhale deeply
2. Exhale with a short burst (as if blowing out a candle).
3. Exhale with a long, slow finish to empty the lungs.
4. Inhale, filling your lungs from the bottom to the top, instead of taking short sips.
5. Hold for a moment to allow oxygen to saturate the cells.
6. Exhale slowly and completely.
7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for five minutes.