Science shows us that those that don’t breathe correctly experience mood swings, depression, anxiety and other stress-related illnesses. And the primary reason these disorders occur is because many of us live inactive lifestyles that promote shallow breathing. What do I mean by this? Think about it. As you sit there and read this article, you’ll note that your intake of air expands your diaphragm one quarter to half a chest expansion. Now that you’re thinking about it, take a deep breath in and exhale. You see, you weren’t breathing fully. Why do I bring you this example?
If you understand what shallow breathing is than you can understand that half of your lung capacity is not being exercised, nor is your cardiopulmonary system. What does this mean? It means that a portion of your lungs are constantly living in a carbon dioxide environment, partially void of oxygen. And why is this bad for prolonged periods of time? The most obvious symptoms you should be aware are fatigue, lack of mental focus-energy and decreased metabolic function, which for many equates to weight gain.
Through time and without adequate activity shallow breathing promotes decreases in the lungs capacity to expand maximally and eventually lack of oxygen delivery to tissues creates other ill-health conditions.
How does shallow breathing impact blood pressure? Since the hearts action is involuntary it can only respond to demand on the heart. If the heart senses a drop in oxygen to the body, it will pump more blood, even during sedentary activity. Also, these increases in blood pressure and heart rate occur during exercise activity. However, active exercise that is a cause and effect on increased blood pressure and heart rate has a relaxing and healthy effect on the mind and body after the task. Whereas, and throughout time, shallow breathing, lacking activity has a detriment on the body and mind by decreasing lung capacity, blood pressure and carbon dioxide exchange within all cellular structure.
It is also true that the body requires an oxygenated environment to burn fat more effectively which occurs during aerobic activity. Walking and jogging are the best forms of aerobic activity. Deep breathing exercises practiced through yoga classes for example, or at home frequently will increase the fat burning metabolism process.
When exercising the lungs adequately, the body is more oxygenated and metabolizes fat as a fuel source preference instead of breaking down mostly glycogen during anerobic activity (without oxygen). Simply by learning to breathe correctly, you can burn more fat and better remove toxins from your body. If you are limited to breathing exercises, you will benefit your body’s metabolism, lymph node, cardiopulmonary systems to include expedite the healing process.
Many of you also understand during exercise we experience aerobic vs. anaerobic metabolic and muscular benefits. And through exercise, for example, like walking, our bodies burn more body fat because our task has shifted to an aerobic metabolism. But if we go from a walk to a sprint, our body cannot get enough oxygen for long periods of time at this intensity and lactic acid buildup limits us in our exercise activity. Anaerobic activity is good for those that need to push the body to build short burst and power/strength capacity. Whereas aerobic activity is necessary to build upon muscular endurance, fat burning and body toning goals.
Below I provide deep breathing exercises that one can practice and apply to improve upon any fitness goal or ill-health, or rehabilitative challenge. Simply apply the daily breathing technique below for improved health benefits. You will experience anxiety-stress relief, reduced aches and pains, have more energy, cardiopulmonary capacity improvements. At a minimum, you’ll improve your circulatory properties (blood pressure and heart rate), improve posture, mood, and sleep, also feel better about yourself and maybe notice some weight loss.
Regardless of your breathing technique, you’ll note it is work, because breathing correctly is exercise. This is because during exercise you have to consciously and willfully exercise the lungs and chest cavity muscles to capacity. And breathing exercises should be preformed many times daily to break the habit of shallow breathing.
An easy breathing exercise that is relaxing to practice whether sitting, or just before sleep, or walking: While sitting up straight without arching your back, inhale deeply [imagine filling your lungs from the bottom up]. Hold for a count of six and then release slowly for the same count. During the exhalation, forcibly remove the excess residual air volume from your lungs. This is easily accomplished by tightening the abdominal area through the exhalation activity. During the inhalation phase don’t rush it [otherwise you’ll feel like your hyperventilating]. Simply inhale through the nose with the mouth closed. Hold the inflated lungs for 6 counts and then release for 6 counts through mouth.
Also, through simple breathing techniques posture is important. Insure you don’t lean forward and reduce the chest cavity area during this exercise. If you do this, you’re not exercising your circulatory-lung systems to its full capacity. Remember to repeat this as many times throughout the day as possible. Eventually, your involuntary system will maintain a deeper breathing pattern during sleep and during the day. Your body will then begin to become more oxygenated throughout a 24 hour window.
And just before sleep, as you lay on your bed, remove the pillow; lay flat and go through 8-10 deep breathing 6 counts of full inhalation and exhalation. This is very relaxing and good for your mind and body which will greatly aid in your ability to fall asleep.
Deep breathing is also good to practice before a big interview, or public speaking engagement as well. It wakes the mind, lungs and posture for better focus and vocal capacity while calming the nerves.
Remember, it’s easy to get lazy at breathing. When we were younger our bodies were more active during the day and our breathing was more active during sleep. Our young active metabolisms craved the oxygen enriched environment and the involuntary act of breathing during sleep was increased.
However, for many of us as we age, our activity levels decrease and we develop poor postural habits. When these two things occur the act of shallow breathing is the result. But through daily aerobic activity and/or combined with daily breathing exercises one can reverse shallow breathing and reap many longevity health benefits for the mind, body and spirit.