Breathing is something we don’t give much thought to, after all, we are born with a built in system that works without our interference so there is very little reason why we would deliberately concern ourselves with it. But our breath holds the key to a healthy body and could help to improve both our physical and mental health.
It may seem a strange concept but there is a ‘correct’ way to breathe – and it’s not the one most of us adopt. Studies show that almost 90% of adults breathe through their chest, a technique that results in taking short, shallow breaths. The problem with breathing through the chest is that it is not the process we are born using. As babies we used the diaphragm, instead of the chest, as our system of breathing, but external factors such as stress, take their toll on our body and before we know it our body begins to adopt new ways of taking in oxygen.
Now, you may be thinking that breathing through the chest isn’t really a big deal when it comes to our health, but it actually plays more of a role than you may realise. When we breathe through our chest we activate the sympathetic nervous system triggering our flight or fight response. This response manifests as stress in our body making us more susceptible to illness and anxiety.
So how exactly do you know if you breathe through the chest? Start by taking a deep breath in. if your chest and shoulders move upwards as you inhale, even just a little, then this is a sign that you are breathing though your chest. Next, try to catch yourself taking a normal breath. Again, take note of whether your shoulders and chest move as you do so.
To begin improving your health through your breathing it is a good idea to start using your diaphragm; a dome-shaped muscle that rests underneath the rib cage. Breathing through the diaphragm is easy, just imagine a balloon in your stomach that inflates as you breathe in through your nose and deflates as you breathe out through your mouth. Your chest and shoulders should remain still. It’s that simple!
Breathing this way immediately triggers the parasympathetic nervous system into action, the part of our body responsible for inducing a sense of calm and relaxation. By adopting this method you calm your body and feel more at ease. But this sense of relaxation is just the beginning; breathing through the diaphragm can also:
- Aid digestion
- Promote good posture by strengthening core muscles
- Increase the quantity of oxygen that flows to the lungs
- Detoxify the body
- Relieve pain
- Regulate weight
If it seems like a daunting concept to change the way you breathe then don’t worry; just 10 minutes of deep breathing through the diaphragm a day is enough to notice a considerable difference to your health. So give yourself permission to sit back, relax and just breathe.
Image Source: morguefile (greyerbaby)