What is the one thing we cannot live without? Before anything else we need oxygen to function. Without breath there is no life. The first thing we do when we are born is take a deep breath. As parents, it is the first sound we listen for immediately following the birth. Our breath literally gives our organs and muscles life. So, if something is so important how can we get it wrong?
Breathing isn’t just a matter of inhaling the good air and exhaling the bad used air. The entire respiratory pattern is important. Rate, depth, timing, and consistency of breaths are all vital to the delicate balance of respiration and metabolism.
Whilst taking a breath is not something we consciously think about, there are occasions where we need to adjust our breathing in response to different situations. Certain illnesses, injuries and even allergies from food can cause changes in our breathing pattern and even our posture. So are we depriving ourselves of vital nourishment and can we do anything to help improve this?
The answer is YES we can… Let’s look at what and how to breathe.
There are many different ways to describe our breathing patterns such as diaphragmatic, abdominal, belly or deep breathing. Put simply it is the action of breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity. Air enters the lungs via the nose and the belly expands during this type of breathing.
The ideal way to breathe is via the nose as it is through this process that the nasal hair will catch the dust particles or germs, dehumidify the air so when it hits your lunges it is the correct temperature. When you have a blocked nose this step is missed and we become a mouth breather. The same thing occurs when we snore. In fact when any mucus is present in the nose our breathing is laboured causing us to take in less air, pulling our head forward putting stress on the respiratory muscles and leaving us feeling tired upon waking.
How to see if you are breathing correctly:-
The best way is to stand in front of a mirror with only your underwear on and observe what your chest and stomach does when you inhale. If done correctly you will notice your abdomen expanding first then only in the last 1/3 of the breath will the chest move. If you have small children watch how they breathe.
How to practice diaphragmatic breathing
Lying on your back on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor.
Take a deep breath in expanding your abdominal wall with each in breath.
Allow your abdominal wall to sink back as you exhale.
Repeat, allowing your breath to naturally slow down and deepen as you relax.
I have made this a part of my daily routine and it also couples as a form of relaxation. Prior to going to bed I will lie on my foam roller and work from 1 – 10 second breaths allowing my mind to empty and my body to be nourished. All the while I re-program my breathing.
Written by Kirsty Robbie - Founder of StudioForty6 and CHEK exercise coach.