How to Improve Your Breathing and Overall Well-Being

Updated on July 25, 2018
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Audrey teaches us how to get big benefits by making changes in the way we breathe. Vocal expert and author, she's direct and effective.

Taking a Breath the Right Way: Use Your Tummy and Not Your Chest

Belly breathing: As you inhale, inflate the stomach and ribcage without lifting the chest area
Belly breathing: As you inhale, inflate the stomach and ribcage without lifting the chest area | Source

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 my goal is, and it will happen for you too if you're willing to change the way you breathe. Changing your breathing 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. Here's how to tell:

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

The Diaphragm - your breathing muscle. Start using it now!
The Diaphragm - your breathing muscle. Start using it now! | Source

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.

Intercostal Muscles

Intercostal Muscles expand during inhalation.
Intercostal Muscles expand during inhalation. | Source

Breathing in a Standing Position and Monitoring the Belly Breath

In a standing position, place your hands on your abdominal area to feel the expansion.  Eventually, move the hands to the sides for feeling additional expansion from the waistline and lower rib cage.
In a standing position, place your hands on your abdominal area to feel the expansion. Eventually, move the hands to the sides for feeling additional expansion from the waistline and lower rib cage. | Source

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:

  1. This gives your internal organs a great massage.
  2. 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.

Final Reminder

Taking time to learn how to breathe effectively can help to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and maintain focus.

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?

See results

Resource

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

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Audrey Hunt

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      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        6 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Dianna

        How marvelous to know you're working on your breathing! It's so rewarding to find a reader who is actually on the very same wave-length. Thank you for this.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        8 weeks ago

        This is so good to read and very helpful. I have been practicing my deep breathing regularly and now I have this wonderful article to gauge my accuracy.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        manatita44

        I'm always so honored when I see that you're visiting me. Thank you for you comments.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        2 months ago from london

        Great videos and instructions on this very essential function life.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Genna

        So nice to see you. I hope you're okay and that you're starting to take care of your beautiful self. How sweet of your son to bring you a book on yoga. This practice, along with diaphragmatic breathing, is a wonderful way to "love" your body. I hope you will see great benefits soon. Thank you for the congratulations on my up-and-coming book. I've much to do yet. Hugs.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Rajan

        I like your comment. I appreciate your taking time to read my article. This means so much to me. You have remarkable knowledge about health. Breathing from the diaphragm is so important for maintaining good health.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

        We take so much for granted, and often don't listen to our own bodies. Thank you for this wonderful article. My son bought me a book on yoga (I've been working too hard it seems without taking proper care of myself), and I plan to start reading and practicing this over the weekend. And congratulations on your book! Hugs. :-)

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        2 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Breath is life so breathing correctly and fully is very important. Thank you for the lessons.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Maria

        Hello, my beautiful friend. The book I'm writing is a huge undertaking. I would be at a complete loss if not for our incredibly talented Bill Holland. He keeps me on track.

        Thank you for being in my corner. You are always an inspiration to me, both as a person and as a gifted writer.

        Love,

        Audrey

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Dora

        You're right! Learning to breathe correctly can absolutely be life-altering. Thanks for the visit and good health to you.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Flourish

        Your band teacher was right on! I love the flute. Playing this instrument requires major breath control as do all wind instruments. Thank you my friend. Hope you're enjoying your summer.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Chitrangada

        Hello, my friend. I want to thank you for your comments. You've shown appreciation for my article which makes me very happy! Diaphragmatic breathing should be taught to everyone. The results are extremely beneficial. I wish you good health and much joy.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        agusfanani

        The health benefits of diaphragmatic breathing are dramatic. I'm glad you're going to discipline yourself and practice the belly breath. Don't give up! Keep doing the floor exercises daily, and before you know it, your body will automatically breathe this new way. Thank you.

      • marcoujor profile image

        Maria Jordan 

        2 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

        Valuable information made easier to understand with the wonderful visual diagrams you've included, dear Audrey.

        I'm excited at the thought of you publishing a book. Please keep us posted!!

        Happy 4th of July. Love, Maria

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Pamela

        So pleased to know that you're going to work on the belly breathing once again. I'm not a doctor, but I've personally witnessed astounding improvements with certain lung diseases. Good luck Pamela and if you ever need my help...just whistle:)

        Peggy

        You're going to notice some big changes in your body as you implement diaphragmatic breathing. I'm so excited to learn that you'll be working on this. Let me know how you're progressing. Thank you, my friend.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 months ago from The Caribbean

        Very essential article. Helpful to the point of being life-altering. Thanks for the lesson!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        2 months ago from USA

        When I was in junior high and learning how to play the flute I had a band leader who took extra time to drive this point home, along with exercises. Thanks for the reminders.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Bill,

        HaHaHa...you are one clever man! Spam indeed!

        Love,

        Audrey

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        2 months ago from New Delhi, India

        Excellent article about the correct way of breathing. Your tips and suggestions are so well explained with the pictures and videos.

        Breathing in the right manner is the most important thing to be learnt, while practising Yoga. Obviously it has great impact on our health.

        Thanks for sharing this useful and well presented article!

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Mary

        Yoga is excellent for using the diaphragm for proper breathing. I know its hard to change your breathing, but stick with it Mary and if you need any help, please let me know.

        Eric

        Yes, learning the belly breath can be challenging. As you keep practicing the floor exercise eventually your body will take over and soon diaphragmatic breathing will become automatic.

      • agusfanani profile image

        agusfanani 

        2 months ago from Indonesia

        Wow I didn't know that the way of breathing correctly has so many benefits to our body. I have to learn how to do it to improve my health too.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        Thanks for the lesson in how to properly breathe. I was doing it as I was reading your instructions and plan to practice it so that it becomes my norm without even thinking. Pinning this to my health board.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago from Sunny Florida

        Breathing correctly is well worth the effort. I really appreciate this article as I have a lung disease, and doing this should help. I use to practice this several years ago but simply stopped thinking about it.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I wonder what would happen if you mentioned that articles like this one will be in your upcoming book? Is that spam according to HP? Is my question indirect spam??? Hey, everyone, Audrey has a book coming out soon!!!!!

        love,

        bill

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        So hard! But in Yoga today it will get easier. Practice yet let go.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        2 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        I remembered learning yoga and he first thing the instructor want us to correct is our breathing. It is hard to do so after years of not doing it correctly.

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