Many cultures throughout the ages have understood the role that breathing plays in achieving optimal health. In China, breathing is central to the healing art of Qigong and the health-enhancing practice of tai chi. In India, pranayama-or breath control-is a major part of yoga.
Breathing is an automatic function of our bodies, yet something we can control. It is affected by physical and mental stress, injury, illness, anxiety, failure. It is deep and calm when we're relaxed, fast and shallow when we're nervous or stressed.
What affects us affects our breathing. And if our bodies are affected by disease improving breath support and control can improve a range of symptoms and conditions.
Breathing Your Best: Why It's Important
As children, we naturally breathe deeply, filling the abdomen and expanding the diaphragm. But as we grow older, breathing often becomes shallower. We stop using the diaphragm-breathing from the chest instead-and our lungs don't fill completely with air.
When breathing is incorrect, a range of systems within the body is affected: immune, circulatory, endocrine and nervous. In addition, energy production is compromised.
Proper respiration offers the body many benefits. Better breathing increases oxygen intake. It revitalizes the cells, tissues and body organs. It eliminates toxins. And on the psychological level, it helps us relax and focus. Studies have found that correct breathing can help manage stress and stress-related conditions by soothing the autonomic nervous system.
It has been found that nine out of every ten people follow an improper breath pattern. It is amazing that all animals and human babies breathe properly. This means that, at some stage of our growth, we drift apart from the right course of respiration.
Now, just try and take a deep breathe. Are you lifting up your shoulders and throwing out your upper chest in order to take that deep breath? If so, you have actually pulled in your diaphragm and that is never the proper way to breathe.
How to breathe properly. Your hands should be placed just above the waistline. Then take a deep breath and feel the expansion. The expansion should at the maximum at the sixth and seventh ribs. As you inhale ensure that your chest is not lifted. If you are breathing centrally, the expansion will take place with the least effort. The shoulders should be kept relaxed and should not be moved. As you exhale, let the air go out in the way you blow off a candle. Start by pulling in those parts that you formerly expanded. It is advisable to keep the lips in the way it gets placed when you utter the ‘oo’ sound as in moon. In that way, you will be able to get a clear idea regarding the position of diaphragm and intercostal muscles during respiration. While doing this exercise, you should prevent your lower rib cage from collapsing. As you begin to exhale, the rib muscles will start to contract. As far as possible, keep the rib muscle extended so that the diaphragm can pull against it.
Breathing Durning Exercise:
Breathing shallowly or holding one's breath while working out limits the oxygen supply to the muscles and the brain, decreasing performance. Weight trainers are advised to conscientiously "exhale on effort" and to inhale when lowering the weight. This technique ensures that the trainer breathes through the most difficult part of the exercise, where one would reflexively hold one's breath. Concentrate on breathing out, that leaves a vacuum making it easier to take a deep breath.