The Importance of Breathing Properly
Everyone knows that breathing is essential to life. Life begins when we inhale our first breath and ends when we exhale our last breath. Unfortunately, most of us don’t think twice about our pattern of breathing… because it’s automatic and we all do it on average 20,000 times a day. It’s also something that people with chronic pain do not do correctly.
People in pain will often hold their breath for short periods of time without even realizing it. And when they do breathe, they frequently have a very shallow, disordered breathing pattern. While this is probably an unconscious protective reaction to pain, it can actually increase the level of pain.
Why is Breathing important?
Breathing is important for two reasons:
1 it supplies our bodies and its various organs with oxygen, which is vital for our survival. In fact, through our breathing we provide oxygen to our body which can not be stored and must be replenished continuously and steadily, so it is important to know how to breathe properly.
In addition, it’s the oxygen that allows the brain to work and if the oxygen is scarce the blood must flow faster.
2 With our breathing, we also get rid of waste products and toxins from the body. Through our breathing, we bring not only oxygen to our body but also excrete toxic substances that we have created and with improper breathing these can easily stagnate in our bodies and damage our vital functions. Unfortunately, most of us use only a third of the actual breathing capacity and, therefore, we can not breathe well.
- Fuels energy production
- Improves focus and concentration
- Eliminates toxins
- Strengthens the immune system
- Improves bowel function
- Reduces stress, tension and anxiety
- Increases feelings of calmness and relaxation
- Can lower blood pressure
- Increases metabolism, aiding in digestion and weight loss.
On the other hand, not breathing correctly can cause problems for a number of systems in the body, including the immune, circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems. Improper breathing can produce a variety of symptoms including:
- Mental fog
- Chest pain
- Digestive problems
- Irritable bowel
- Neck and shoulder pain
Our breathing is also the link between our body and our mind and for both to function well, they need oxygen. If our way of breathing is short and quick our minds will be nervous and agitated. If our breathing is irregular the mind is anxious and disturbed. One of the main causes of a improper breathing can be a lack of exercise, but it is not always so.
By learning how to breathe well we will become healthier and stronger. Knowing how to breathe will also help us to control our emotions, fears and keep a clear and sharp mind. If our breathing is deep, slow and regular then our mind will reach a state of tranquillity and calm.
When we are upset or stressed our breathing becomes quick and shallow. Breathing deeply and slowly instantly calms us down mentally as well as physically.
Concentrating on our breathing, also helps us to live the present and feel alive.
Very often our mind is thinking about something while our body is doing something else, as a result, our mind and our body are not unified.
With breathing exercises, inhaling and exhaling, we bring our mind and body to work together because both are focused on the same thing and as a result we can feel alive because we are living in the present.
We can learn how to breathe properly by practicing some breathing exercises.
Are Your Breathing Properly?
To find out if you are breathing properly:
- Lie flat on your back, stand up straight, or sit up straight in a chair.
- Place your hand just below your ribs, on your abdomen.
- Breathe as you normally do.
- Notice: Does your hand on your abdominal area rise? Or does your upper chest rise? (You may even feel your shoulders rise slightly.)
- If your abdomen rises and your chest stays relatively flat, you are breathing properly.
- If your abdomen barely moves and your chest rises, you are not breathing properly and need to practice the breathing exercise described below.
Learning to Breathe Properly
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. (Although you can do this exercise while sitting or standing, it’s easiest to practice by lying down at first.)
- Place your hands on your abdomen.
- Breathe in through your nose, counting to four. Picture a balloon in your belly that you’re inflating with the air you are inhaling. Your hands should rise as your abdomen fills with air.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to four. Picture letting the air out of your belly balloon. Your hands should go down as your abdomen deflates.
Practice this exercise for a minimum of five minutes at a time, at least two or three times a day. You’ve probably been breathing improperly for a long time, so it may take awhile to retrain your body to breathe properly without you thinking about it. Some exercise techniques such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi stress proper breathing techniques and can be particularly helpful in training your body to breathe correctly.