You’re Not Breathing Properly!

Breathing… with all the motor tasks we struggle with throughout our lifetime, from crawling to running to swinging a golf club, one would think breathing is something we shouldn’t have to worry about.

Well, think again.

It’s true, breathing is a subconscious, automatic activity that starts with a newborn baby’s cry and continues to our last breathe. But somewhere along the road, we find a way to mess it up. There are a few reasons for this, which we will touch upon later, but for now let’s look at how you breathe.

Get in a relaxed position, sitting or laying on your back. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Take a deep breath… not as deep as you can but a little deeper than normal. When you take a breath in, try to determine which hand is moving more, the one on your chest or the one on your stomach.
If it’s your chest moving more, you are breathing like most people but unfortunately it’s not ideal breathing. The good news is that it can be corrected.

As you take a breath in, the chest and ribs shouldn’t move much at all. Instead, you should feel your stomach expand, especially below the belly button. You should also feel it expand on your sides and back. Ideally you want to create an even pressure causing an expansion all the way around your waist, at and slightly above your belt/pant line.

This technique does take a while to learn and it’s best taught hands-on by a qualified practitioner. But let’s finish by talking about why the majority of people do not breathe properly and what the benefits are.

We actually start off breathing correctly from birth, but somewhere along the line either due to vanity and/or just being taught incorrectly, we start to hold our stomach when taking a breath in. This does not allow proper expansion of the stomach and we end up breathing into our chest. In addition, stress and anxiety promotes chest breathing which can quickly become a bad habit.

The main reason we want to breathe through the stomach is that a lot of our core stability is attained through what we call intra-abdominal pressure. The best way to think of this is to imagine a can of pop before it is opened. It’s pretty stable, right? You can’t bend it, twist it, etc. Once you open it, it’s completely different. It’s very unstable and you can move it anyway you want to. The stability of the can is created by internal pressure, much like the pressure we want to create by breathing properly. In short, breathing through the stomach creates core stability.

Abdominal breathing also brings air to the lower parts of the lungs which can give us better oxygen transfer. It keeps us calmer in times of stress. Give it a try. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try breathing from your stomach to see if it calms down the nerves.

Finally, it will reduce the use of muscles in the neck and upper back. In other words, our neck and shoulder muscles won’t be kicking in every time we breathe in. This helps reduce neck and upper back pain.

In summary, proper breathing can have a huge impact on the quality of your life. It’s such a simple thing that most people don’t really think about, but it can be the cause or solution to various health problems.

The question is: are you breathing properly? Give it a try and see it for yourself. If you’re not sure and don’t know how to do it, see a practitioner for guidance.

Live a healthy life, each breath at a time.