How to Improve Your Breathing and Overall Well-Being
Taking a Breath the Right Way: Use Your Tummy and Not Your Chest
8 Healthy Benefits of Changing the Way You Breathe
What if I told you that improving your breathing could:
- Show you a way to enjoy better health
- Alleviate stress
- Live a longer life
- Have more clarity
- Be more energetic
- Boost your immune system
- Fuel every cell in your body
- Sleep better
Well, this is exactly what I've experienced, and it will happen for you too, if you're willing to change the way you breathe. The way we inhale and exhale really does immediately affect the body, mind, and spirit. This change takes place at both the cellular and muscular levels.
Your body wants to breathe in the way it was designed to and right now, it's not.
How to Tell if You Are Inhaling Correctly
Stop whatever you're doing! In a standing position, or sitting up straight, take a deep breath. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let's see if you are actually breathing the way you were meant to breathe.If your body is doing any of the following you need help in correcting the way you inhale air:
- Raising or lifting the shoulders as you inhale
- Pulling your stomach in to take a breath
- Raising or expanding the chest
- Tightening the torso
- Making any type of noise
- Not being sure of how your body reacts as you inhale
So, how did you do? If your answer is "not so good," you're not alone. You have plenty of company. I'm going to give you the easiest life hack ever. I'm going to teach you how to breathe for a clearer mind and a healthier body.
Changing the way you breathe will change your life, and it's absolutely free.
Why Do I Need to Learn How to Breathe? I'm Already Breathing
Yes, I realize you are breathing. I also know that the way you're breathing is most likely wrong. Your body wants to breathe in the right way, the way it's designed to breathe. Lifting your chest, when you inhale, is not what your body wants to do. Pulling in your stomach to get a deep, full breath isn't natural for your body either.
You've been breathing for such a long time, the thought of someone teaching you how to breathe seems unusual. I get it! But once you recognize the critical problems incorrect breathing has created, breathing the right way will blow your mind.
Within your amazing body, you have a muscle, the most important muscle called the diaphragm. This muscle is unappreciated and underused. Many have the misguided belief that the diaphragm is only to be used by singers. But let me tell you that when you're not using this muscle to breathe, you might be surviving, but you're not fully thriving.
As you change the way you breathe, you will immediately notice the effect on your body, mind, and spirit.
As you learn to breathe diaphragmatically (belly breathing), you'll allow your body to do just what it wants to do, exactly what it's supposed to do. It's simply about moving your breath down to the lower part of your body. This is where it used to be, and this is where it should be.
This Is Your Diaphragm
Meet Your Diaphragm: Your Breathing Muscle
Everybody breathes, and the breath affects everything. The strength of our breathing muscles and the balance of oxygen in our body are the cornerstones of our health. Every time we breathe we nourish our body and brain.
Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located underneath your lungs and attached to your ribs and spine. When you inhale, the diaphragm flexes downward and moves back upward as you inhale. The organs below your diaphragm have to move out of the way. They move down and out, which is why your abdomen moves out as you inhale. As you exhale, the organs gradually move back to their normal position.
There was a time when you knew exactly how to breathe diaphragmatically. In fact, you were born breathing this way. Look at the video below and you will see what I mean.
Notice the slight lift of the baby's belly as he breathes in and out naturally.
Relearning How to Breathe: Using the Diaphragm
Now, get ready for your beginning lesson on connecting to your diaphragmatic muscle:
- Place a pad or blanket on the floor to lay on. If you're unable to lie on the floor, use your bed or couch. The firmer, the better as your spine will be straight.
- Wearing comfortable clothing lay on the floor on your back with feet flat on the floor and the knees pointing upward.
- Place a heavy book on your abdomen.
- Inhale, and you should see the book rising up.
- Feel the sensations in your body. Notice that when you inhale, your lungs expand and take in air. Your abdomen moves out as you inhale.
- Now you will exhale as the air leaves your body, slowly. You will see or feel the abdominal area moving back into its normal position.
Starting this exercise on the floor is a great way to help you feel your breath movement. You will gradually work your way up to a standing and sitting position.
Eventually, with daily practice, week after week and month after month, this new way of breathing will become automatic.
If you feel a bit confused right now it's okay. It's normal when you begin working through these exercises. Be patient, keep at it because you're creating a new habit.
Belly Breathing is Diaphragmatic Breathing
Panting Like a Pooch Exercise
When you mimic the panting that a dog does, you can really feel the motion of breath going into your body. My students love this exercise because they immediately feel the connection to the diaphragmatic muscle. Here's all you have to do:
- Observe how a dog breathes.
- Pretend that you are a dog on a hot summer's day and pant. As you pant, notice what part of your body is moving. You'll feel it in your abdominal area.
- As you inhale, the abdominal muscles move out. Continue panting and slow down the rate of your inhalation.
- As you slow down, concentrate on the steady movement of your body as you breathe. Expand out as you inhale and slowly relax back in as you exhale.
- Notice that during exhalation, your abdominal muscles move back inward.
The following video shows how you used to breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing was natural and easy.
You Once Used Belly Breathing Naturally
Wait! There's More Than One Major Player for Breathing Properly
So far, you've learned the importance of expanding the abdominal wall for a full, correct breath. Your intercostal muscles also expand during inhalation. These muscles run between the ribs and help to form and move (expand) the chest wall for breathing.
When using the diaphragm upon inhalation, the intercostals will expand, helping air to fill the lungs. Remember, the best breathing happens from your chest down. The bottom part of your ribs moves, your belly expands, your sides expand (intercostals), and eventually, even your back expands.
Below is a picture of the intercostals.
Breathing in a Standing Position and Monitoring the Belly Breath
Breathing in a Standing Position
Once you've got the floor breathing exercise nailed, you're ready to test your new belly breathing in a standing position. If you find that you have a hard time expanding your abdomen standing, return to the floor position and continue practicing.
Using a full-length mirror, do the following:
- Stand sideways at a full-length mirror to observe your body.
- As you inhale, check your neck, chest, and shoulders. They should not move.
- Only your belly and pelvis should be moving back and forth with each breath you take.
- A lower body breath is a healthy breath and expands on the inhale.
Two very powerful benefits from breathing this way are:
- This gives your internal organs a great massage.
- Your body will receive a better flush of toxins from your body.
Now, aren't these reasons enough to learn to breathe from your belly?
Note: Make it a practice to return to floor breathing often. This will be a good reminder for correct body movement when standing. Check out the video below.
Taking time to learn how to breathe effectively can help to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and maintain focus. We can all monitor our breathing to make sure our belly, ribcage and even the back all inflate at the very same time whenever we take a breath. Sometimes inflation feels huge when we breathe and other times it may feel quite minimal. It's all okay. Check out the photo below for inflation in the back area. It will be easier to feel the expansion in the position shown. When standing, inflation will be barely noticeable. I recommend a sitting position to help you feel this effect.
Breathing, a basic human function, is taken for granted. The trick is to learn how to exercise control over our breathing, enabling us to experience both mental and physical health benefits.
Breathing is the link between body and mind. When we are upset, worried or anxious, our breathing becomes faster. If we consciously slow our breathing down to a gentle wave-like pattern, we can soothe our own nerves, settle our thoughts, and begin to calm down.
Top athletes, performers, and CEO's all practice and swear by it, and you will too. It's time for you to turn your breathing from an unconscious process into a conscious one. You will see long-term improvements in your health and well-being.
When the breath is limited, life is limited. We breathe in only to breathe out. We can either breathe in strength and courage or we can breathe in negative thoughts and emotions. The choice is ours to make.
Are You Willing To Learn How To Breathe More Effectively?
Breathing Alive: A Guide To Conscious Living by Reshad Feild ISBN 1-85230-050-7
The Importance of Breathing
The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as "pneuma" is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss. - Alexander Lowen
How to Inhale and Feel Inflation of the Back Area
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2018 Audrey Hunt