Breathing 101

Breathe, Breathe in the Air, Don’t Be Afraid to Care….

Failure to breathe properly can cause a number of problems, from headaches and tight/sore neck muscles, to anxiety, to poor posture and back problems. Increased stress, poor sleep, fuzzy head/problems thinking, problems with concentration (maybe you don’t really have ADHD). These are just a few of the symptoms of poor breathing habits.

Let’s look at how breathing should work.

You inhale through your nose. The sinus cavities warm the air (or cool it if it’s really hot out) and helps filter out dust and other irritants (but not all). The air then goes into the lungs which are filled with sacs and branches which resemble roots. The sacs are filled with air but are also fed by hundreds of capillaries. The alveoli act as gas-exchange structures. That is they allow air to pass from the sacks into the bloodstream.

The oxygen in the air binds with hemoglobin, an iron containing molecule, in the blood stream which is then transported throughout the body.

Pretty much everything in your body needs oxygen to function properly. Improper breathing, meaning reduced oxygenation means reduced oxygen to cells resulting in overall degradation of your body’s abilities, physical and mental.

Some people breathe through their mouth bypassing the sinus cavity and all that happens as the air passes through the nose. Over time mouth breathing causes deformities of the face and teeth. We’ll talk about that more in a later article.

So now that you know why poor breathing is bad for you, how do you know if you aren’t breathing well. Do you have any of the symptoms listed above? Then you are very likely not breathing properly. You can also watch yourself breathe.

  • When you inhale, are you inhaling through the nose or mouth?? (Better be the nose!)
  • When you inhale which way do your ribs move? Do they move at all? (They should move down towards the pelvis a little and sideways but not up or forward when you are upright.
  • Do your shoulders move when you inhale? They shouldn’t, you are using your neck and not your diaphragm.
  • Do your neck muscles get tighter upon inhalation? You’re still using your neck muscles and not your diaphragm

How did you breathing get out of whack?

  • Car Accident
  • Having parents who breathed poorly (as a baby you learn by watching others and this includes breathing)
  • Sitting (that’s most of us) – Sitting prevents/limits the diaphragm from dropping down on inhalation forcing it forwards. Over time this becomes the norm.
  • Sucking in the gut to make it look like you have flat abs
  • Improper breathing allows us to better hide our emotions

What can you do to fix your breathing? Practice it!

Lie on floor legs out straight (you can bend the knee if you have low back discomfort. Place one hand on your belly and the other on the right chest wall. Inhale through the nose for a count of 3. You belly should move towards the ceiling, the chest should rise up as well but not a much and should move slightly after the belly. Now exhale through the nose, fully for a count of 6. Make sure you blow out all the air and hold the exhale for a 3 count and repeat the cycle. 3 Count inhale, 6 count exhale, 3 count hold.

Take two to 3 minutes every day and practice.


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