Let me be clear from the start that you are evidently breathing adequately for survival, otherwise you would not be here. But do not mistake doing something that you do for survival with something that cannot be improved upon and in turn do wonders for your day to day living as well as for a significant enhancement to your recovery after any surgery or treatment.
Most of us breath in more than we breath out, and this can be caused by shallow breathing or mouth breathing. Over time this can change the body’s chemistry which can cause stress.
Long term symptoms of over breathing like this can be feelings of neck and back pain; fatigue; stress; a feeling of anxiety; brain fog.
This is an easy fix but it must be practised daily.
Lie down or sit supported in a chair and place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest.
Calmly breath in and out and start to notice where you breath.
Are you breathing from your mouth or your nose?
Is your chest hand or abdomen hand raising and lowering more?
Answering these two questions helps you to identify if you are breathing from your abdomen or your chest more.
Now let’s count the breaths over 60 seconds. Set a timer for 60 seconds and count every time you exhale and make a note of this number.
Our understanding of the benefits of slow, tidal breathing, have changed significantly over recent years and we are now finding research which supports many ancient techniques.
New research suggests a breathing rate of between 6-10 breaths per minute is ideal.
Slow breathing has been shown to improve the function of both the autonomic and the central nervous system – this means that your whole body will work better and you will be more relaxed.
Such slow breathing may not be easy to achieve, or sensible to try if you have a pre-existing lung condition so do check with your Doctor first.
Mindful breathing from your diaphragm and intercostal muscles however is very safe and allows a healthy amount of oxygen to flow in and out of the body. This not only impacts on the physiology of how the body works but significantly affects people’s psychology, mood, wellbeing and ability to deal with stressful situations and pain.
Mindful breathing is a method of using your diaphragm to help you take bigger and slower breaths which will relax you and improve your lung function. In a comfortable seated position place one hand on your abdomen or tummy, place your other hand on your breast bone or chest. Try to breath in and out of your nose.
Breathing through your nose helps to filter, warm and humidify the air before it enters your lungs. As you breath in, feel your abdomen push out slightly; as you breath out, feel it fall back in. Your hand on your chest should feel like it is not doing anything. If you notice your chest hand is rising and falling with your breath then try to focus your mind and to start with, actively encourage your abdomen to push out slightly as you breath in and relax down as you breath out.
Once you have the technique of where you should feel your inhale and your exhale then start to count your breath.
Our breath in should be shorter than our breath out, and there should be a short pause at either side. Try to count a breath in for 4 seconds, then pause for 2 seconds.
Count your breath out for 6 seconds, then pause for 2 seconds. The pause at the end of the in breath is important to help all of the small air pockets in the bottoms of the lung to inflate. The pause at the end of your breath out helps the body to start to not panic when it recognises low levels of carbon dioxide.
It is common to feel light headed when you start to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Always sit in a supported chair and only practice for a few breathes at a time until your body get's used to the changes.
For maximum benefit practice diaphragmatic breathing with meditation for 20 minutes.
Good luck! And reap the benefits of great breathing!