Have you ever thought about how you breathe? Probably not, since breathing happens instinctively without a second thought. The only time you are likely to notice your breathing is when there is a problem or you can’t catch your breath after physical exercise.
It may be hard to believe, but most of us breathe improperly and as a consequence suffer some surprising side effects.
What happens when you breathe the wrong way?
Breathing supplies our bodies with oxygen and is essential to life. In only two minutes without air the body starts dying, but even brief periods of inefficient breathing can cause significant problems. When you do not breathe properly the following side effects can occur:
- Your body is in a constant state of stress and produces excess stress hormones.
- Your skin is pale and clammy from lack of oxygen.
- Your muscles tire more easily.
- You feel tired and lethargic.
- Your cells become too alkaline due to an imbalance of CO₂.
- You do not get the nutrients you need.
- You may suffer insomnia, panic attacks and dizzy spells.
- You may hyperventilate, causing heart palpitations.
The wrong way to breathe
Breathing is a multi-step process, but you don’t have to do all the steps to feel like you are getting enough air. Most of us breathe using only the top third of our lungs, which is a sort of stress-triggered way to breathe. If you are not filling your lungs enough so that your belly expands with each breath, then you are breathing the wrong way.
The right way to breathe
Newborn babies are the best at breathing. Their entire torso expands with every breath. Try to emulate this style of breathing and you will start to breathe easier. It may feel like you are getting too much oxygen at first, but your body will soon adjust.
It takes time to relearn how to breathe properly. You will need to relax and learn to take deep breaths that fill your entire lungs and expand your belly. Take note of how you breathe differently at work, while driving, when relaxing, or while exercising. Starting a yoga program can also help you learn to breathe more efficiently.
Recent studies suggest that a lot of energy is bound up in breathing. In fact, a study from 2014 published in the British Medical Journal indicates that triglyceride fat cells require a huge amount of oxygen to be broken down, and most of the byproducts are released in your breath. When you lose weight, you literally breathe it out. This suggests that breathing properly can help keep excess pounds at bay.
What proper breathing feels like
Proper breathing engages the diaphragm. Each breath should push the diaphragm down, which usually inflates the belly. Sometimes called “belly breathing,” this is the healthiest way to breathe and has a relaxing effect on the body. You must relax to breathe properly, so you will feel less stressed in just a few minutes. While it is not possible to think about your breathing every second of the day, take a few times a day to consciously breathe properly.
The best way to begin proper breathing is lying on your back. Take slow relaxed breaths that fill your entire lungs and expand your belly. Place your hands on your belly to feel the rise and fall. When you can do this easily lying down, try it standing up, it is a lot more difficult! As you progress, a great exercise to strengthen the diaphragm muscle is panting with your tongue stuck out like a dog. Seriously, the rapid motion engages the diaphragm for a quick 10-second breath workout!
To make proper breathing a daily habit, take slow relaxed breaths for 2–5 minutes several times a day: when you first wake up, at lunch, during any breaks during the day, during exercise, and right before bed. You may find it easier to breathe better at other times of the day after a few weeks of conscious breathing practice.
Breathing correctly benefits your health in surprising ways. You not only feel more relaxed, but you will have better nutrient absorption, lower blood pressure, and feel more energized. You may even drop a few excess pounds since your body requires a huge amount of excess oxygen to dispose of fat. With all the benefits of breathing properly, it’s time to make the practice a priority and get started today.
Brenda is a writer, chef and health nut with many years of writing experience in the alternative health industry. She specializes in health news, healthy living, alternative treatments, and healthy recipes. She loves educating others about sustainable, healthy living. Brenda lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters.