Do You Know How to Breathe?

All aspects of life begin with breathing. Proper breathing ensures that we are using our diaphragm which is a large muscle and part of the inner unit of our core. Improper breathing disassociates our core muscles from our functional movement. In today’s fitness world, everyone is quick to speak about strengthening the core, but how many people are taking care of the most basic of core functions: breathing?  Proper breathing allows us to use our rest and recovery system while aiding in digestion and elimination.  Reverse breathing, chest breathing or shallow breathing, triggers our fight or flight system which adds stress to our bodies.

What does proper breathing look like?  When breathing properly we should inhale through the nose and the belly should rise on our inhale and sink on your exhale.  The ‘work,’ or contraction of muscles when breathing, occurs when we inhale.  Our exhale should not be a forced movement, but rather the air should be forced out of our lungs by the relaxation of the diaphragm.  Most people develop improper breathing patterns and rely on their chest muscles to inhale, which puts a great deal of stress on the respiratory and accessory respiratory muscles which can lead to headaches, neck tension, poor concentration, and changes the pH of the blood to acidic due to the poor oxygenation of the blood.  Improper breathing can then be the cause of other dysfunctions throughout the body.

You can train yourself to breathe properly and in turn, use your new found breath in many ways.  The process of teaching yourself to breathe properly is an excellent introduction to meditation and a path to better sleep.

To breathe properly, lay on your back on a hard flat surface.  Inhale through your nose and be sure that your belly rises and not your chest.  The first 2/3 of your breath should have your belly rising, and the last 1/3 is when your chest should rise.  Set a timer for 2 minutes and focus on filling your belly with breath on a count of four, and exhale on a count of four.  Do this as many times a day as you like.

Additionally, you can improve your posture by breathing properly.  When sitting in a chair common poor posture has the person sitting with rounded shoulders and hunched over.  In this position, it is not possible to have your belly rise on your inhale because it is being held down by the rib cage.  Lifting the rib cage up allows the diaphragm to expand and allows your belly to rise when you inhale.