It’s easy to underestimate the importance of breathing. Because it’s involuntary, you don’t need to remind yourself to do it.
Despite being automated, breathing is essentially one of the most important bodily functions. Breathing allows the body to receive the oxygen it needs to function.
Oftentimes, people with physical, mental, and emotional ailments struggle with their breathing. While it doesn’t take additional energy to breathe, proper breathing improves overall wellness.
How Breathing Works
It’s important you understand the breathing process before mastering techniques. When you inhale, or take in air, your diaphragm contracts. This action gives your lungs room for expansion.
Your intercostal muscles, or the muscles between your ribs, contract and cause your rib cage to pull up and outward. Air is then inhaled, causing lung expansion. As air passes through the bloodstream, the air sacs release carbon dioxide, which is released on the exhale.
This process repeats up to 30,000 times everyday of your life.
The Significance of Breathing
Your entire body relies on oxygen. Improper breathing causes your body to run inefficiently. Unhealthy lifestyle choices also impair your breathing.
For instance, when you spend lots of time sitting down, it negatively impacts your breathing. This is especially bad if you slouch while you sit. Poor posture disables the lungs from getting enough oxygen.
In addition to sitting down, it’s common for people to suck in their stomachs, which restricts breathing.
One of the worst ways you can impair your breathing is constantly being stressed. When you’re stressed, you take shorter, quicker breaths.
Over time, this breathing technique becomes habitual. This is called hyperventilating. When you hyperventilate, your body produces lower levels of carbon dioxide in your blood.
This raises your blood’s pH levels and decreases blood flow to your brain. Hyperventilating also reduces calcium and potassium in your blood.
While these may seem like small problems, hyperventilating causes adverse side effects including emotional instability, fainting, numbness, and even seizures.
Common Causes for Breathing
Issues There are a number of reasons for improper breathing. Oftentimes, having a cold impairs your breathing. Infections like sinusitis also make breathing difficult.
The inflammation causes congestion for weeks at a time. If you suffer with long-term ailments like allergies, chances are you’ll struggle breathing.
Other chronic breathing problems like asthma also create difficulty breathing. This occurs because the nasal passages directly lead to the lungs.
Millions of Americans suffer with impaired breathing based on these conditions, forcing them to take medication or seek professional attention.
Benefits of Proper Breathing Techniques
When you’re breathing correctly, your body functions at a higher mental, physical, and emotional level. In fact, breathing techniques are a natural way to drastically improve your overall wellness.
When you practice proper breathing everyday, you’ll notice a number of changes.
For one, your stress and anxiety levels will drastically decrease. If you notice, the majority of your poor decisions are made during a time of high stress or anxiety.
Learning to breathe improves mental clarity and stability. Overall, you’ll make better decisions. Breathing also alters your psychological state.
When you're experiencing a panic attack or in a bad mood, any additional pressure can hurt you.
When you master your breathing, you have better control over your emotional state, which benefits both you and your peers.
If you’re into fitness, proper breathing techniques are essential. It helps regulate your heart rate, which improves cognitive and physical strength during workouts.
In addition to improving workouts, you’ll expedite your body’s natural recovery process.
Not only does proper breathing help detoxify your body and strengthen your immune system, oxygenating your body’s organs and help proper healing.
Breathing Techniques for Better Health
Learning to breathe efficiently doesn’t take long. In fact, you can learn by simply setting aside five minutes everyday.
Once you improve, you can slowly increase your practice time.
Alternating Nostril Breathing
This breathing technique aids relaxation, improves cardiovascular function, and lowers heart rate.
It’s best to practice this technique on an empty stomach and avoid practicing when you’re ill or congested.
- To start, sit in a comfortable position.
- With your right hand lifted toward your nose, press your first two fingers toward your palm and extend your remaining fingers.
- After exhaling, close your right nostril with your right thumb.
- After you inhale through your opposite nostril, gently close it with your pinky and exhale out of the right nostril.
- Once you’ve alternated inhaling on both sides, you’ve completed one cycle.
- Continue repeating this cycle for five minutes, ending on the left nostril.
The equal breathing technique teaches you to make sure your inhale and exhale are the same length. Steady breaths bring overall balance.
- To start, choose an appropriate breathing length. A good length is three to five seconds.
- This ensures it’s not too long or short.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- As you breathe in, count the length of your breath.
- Do the same on your exhale. If you’d like, use a term or phrase to make sure your inhale and exhale are identical.
- It’s okay if you take a slight pause between breaths. Pauses naturally occur between inhaling and exhaling.
- Continue this process for at least five minutes.
Pursed Lip Breathing
One of the greatest benefits of pursed lip breathing is you can do it anywhere at any time.
In fact, many people pair this breathing technique with meditation, yoga, and other wellness techniques.
- To begin, keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
- With your mouth closed, slowly inhale through your nose for two counts.
- As you pucker your lips like you’re about it whistle, slowly exhale through your pouted lips for four counts.
- Continue this pattern for four or five minutes.
This breathing technique should be done throughout the day as you relax. Diaphragmatic breathing, commonly referred to as belly breathing, improves your diaphragm control.
You should practice this technique multiple times a day.
- Start by lying on your back and bend your knees.
- Place your hands on your chest and below your rib cage. This allows you to feel your diaphragm move.
- As you inhale, feel your stomach press into your hand.
- With your other hand still, exhale with pursed lips and tighten your stomach muscles.
- Your upper hand should remain still.
Once you master this exercise, you can amplify the intensity by placing a book on your abdomen or sit in a chair.
Lion’s Breath Commonly referred to as Lion’s Pose
Lion’s Breath is a popular yoga technique great for chest and face tension relief.
- To start, get sit in a comfortable position.
- You can either rest on your heels or with your legs crossed.
- With your fingers spread, rest your palms firmly on your knees.
- With your eyes opened wide, breathe in through your nose as you open your mouth wide.
- Make sure you also stick your tongue out with the tip pointing downward towards your chin.
- Contract your frontal throat muscles and exhale out of your mouth.
- As you exhale, make a loud “ah” sound. As you do this breathing technique, try focusing your eyes on the tip of your nose or on the space between your eyebrows.
You don’t have to suffer with trouble breathing. When you struggle with your health, pay attention to your breathing.
When you don’t work on controlling your breathing, your health will decline.
Practicing these breathing techniques are natural ways to improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Breathing techniques are effective ways to improve your health, especially because you can do them anywhere.
Even if you start with five minutes everyday, you’ll see drastic improvements. Try using breathing techniques for better health to improve digestion, sleep, and athletic performance.
If you’d like, pair these techniques with meditation or yoga for even better results. If you regularly experience anxiety, this also negatively impacts your breathing patterns.
When you make a habit of taking short breaths, or hyperventilate, you actually break your body down even more.
Observe your breaths in stressful situations and work on using breathing techniques to calm your anxiety.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help in emergency situations. In addition to eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and fitness, you may need additional support in severe situations. Speak with your doctor about these breathing techniques and how you can use them to improve your ailments.