You’ve been doing it wrong. What I’m talking about? Breathing. Your breaths are too shallow and you don’t get enough oxygen in your body, so every few minutes you need to take one deep breath, usually through the mouth to get enough oxygen. Am I right?
I know as I’m doing the same thing. Breathing is so automatic that it’s really hard to change, but if you do, it can have great health benefits if you do.
Most of us are practicing shallow breathing, meaning we are only breathing with our chest and your intercostal muscles instead of our diaphragm. By doing this you are approximately only using ⅓ of your lung capacity and as a consequence, your are getting too little oxygens in your cells.
Unfortunately, this form of breathing is normal for most of us and we don’t even realize it.
The better form of breathing is diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing. With this form of breathing, you are contracting your diaphragm, which is located horizontally between your chest and stomach cavity.
Instead of your chest, your stomach is expanding when breathing with your diaphragm and your lung capacity is used to a larger extent.
This form of breathing has many health benefits and is used in alternative medical treatments as well as in yoga and meditation practices.
First of all, by taking deeper diaphragmatic breaths your oxygen intake is higher and your cells are experiencing a higher oxygen saturation. Besides that deeper breathing will also increase your heart rate variability, which measures the fluctuation of your heart rate during an activity. A higher fluctuation is considered healthier.
Another benefit you’ll notice when switching from shallow to diaphragmatic breathing is that your muscles won’t feel so tight anymore. As long as you are breathing shallowly those muscles will contract more often and as a consequence get tightened.
Don Campbell who co-authored the book “Perfect breathing: Transform your life one breath at a time”, also discovered that 10 or fewer breaths per minute are best for your health. One reason for this is that breathing only 10 times per minute will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which will help you relax.
Knowledge base: The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for stimulating functions such as “feed and breed” or “rest and digest” in your body. Those activities are especially important after eating. It is part of the involuntary nervous system and is also responsible for slowing down your heart rate, relaxing sphincter muscles as well as increasing intestinal and glandular activity.
There are several signs that show if you are taking shallow breaths. For starters, you breathe in with your chest and as a consequence, it is the first thing to move. Another sign is that you are breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
Breathing through your mouth is not as good as breathing through your nose because you can take up more toxins in the air through the mouth. The nose actually works like a filter.
Slouching forward is another sign of shallow breathing because this type of breathing tends to shorten and tighten muscles in your chest and in the front of your shoulder.
There are several breathing exercises and I want to show you two of them. The first one is the 4-7-8 technique. It’s rather simple. 4 seconds in, 7 seconds hold, 8 seconds out. Repeat this cycle four times and do it twice a day.
The other technique is a bit more demanding and should be done for 5 minutes at 5 times a day.
It includes 6 steps that should be repeated 4 to 6 times for 5 minutes.
- Inhale deeply through your nose.
- Exhale with short bursts, like you, were blowing out a candle. This will exercise your diaphragm. You’ll feel it contracting in the middle of your body.
- Exhale with a long breath to empty the lungs. Not exhaling enough CO2 can also lead to shallow breathing.
- Inhale and try to fill all of your lungs with air.
- Hold for a moment and let the oxygen settle in the cells.
- Exhale slowly and completely.
Although doing these breathing exercises might feel a bit counterintuitive and also take a couple of minutes each, the benefits you’ll experience after doing this for a while will be worth it.
Besides the health benefits mentioned above, you mental abilities will sharpen as well. You will feel more focused and attentive. Your energy will increase as well.
Steps to take:
- Watch your breathing. Is it shallow or deep? Are you breathing through your lungs or your diaphragm?
- Try one of the breathing exercises mentioned above.