Could you believe that there is something you do approximately 18 times per minute, 1,080 times an hour and 25,920 times a day, without even thinking about it? Breathing; Essential to life, but if done poorly, has the potential to be a source of imbalance, leading to dysfunction & illness in the body.
Whilst the idea of not breathing properly might be ludicrous to those who relate to breathing as a simple automatic function, breathing dysfunction is a modern day disease that is having a huge impact on our health & wellbeing. So why do so few of us know how to breathe properly?
Wondering what we mean when we talk about correct breathing? Correct breathing means breathing in a way that is physiologically optimal for the body. It’s the way your body is designed to breathe; only with the many demands of modern life we tend to move further and further away from.
Chest vs Diaphragmatic Breathing
What most of us tend to do is use our chest to breathe, rather than our diaphragm & abdominal muscles. When we chest breathe we use the muscles of our chest, shoulders and neck to heave air into our lungs. we tend to take small “sips” of a breath, rather than full and deep breaths. We also tend to hold it when we’re anxious or stressed, and then this becomes a learned behaviour or habit leading to a ripple effect of dysfunction throughout our body systems, beginning with our nervous system.
Chest breathing places a huge amount of physical stress on these areas and can lead to an increase in neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Not to mention, it also leads to deactivation of the muscles we are meant to breathe with, the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, reducing support for the lumbar spine and increasing chances of lower back pain. The good news is that if we learn to breathe, using the diaphragmatic breathing method, we can expect significant health improvements.
Diaphragmatic breathing involves drawing breath into the chest & lungs by contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the belly, and deepening of inhalation and exhalation. When we perform diaphragmatic breathing correctly it is much like drawing air into a balloon and seeing it expand, and letting it out to see it deflate. This consequently decreases the frequency of our breath and maximizes the amount of oxygen introduced into our body.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic BreathingA growing number of studies have shown that diaphragmatic breathing may trigger body relaxation responses and have both physical and mental health benefits including:
+ Improvements in attention,
+ Lowered cortisol & stress levels,
+ Reduction in tension,
+ Improved heart rate variability and blood pressure,
+ Less anxiety &
+ Greater energy & wellbeing
The other factor to consider when we think about improving our breathing is ensuring we are breathing good air. With apartment living, air-conditioning and crowded open plan offices we have seen a rise in the use of air-fresheners and plug-ins. Many of the ingredients in these products have documented detrimental health effects including altered immune system & hormonal function. If it is fresh-air you are looking for, try opening a window rather than polluting your air with chemicals from a can.
If you like to use a fragrance in your air, try using a natural alternative to the toxic air fresheners and plug-ins. Our favourite? The Mist Sprays from Bondi Wash. Fragranced with natural Australian Bush Oils, these beautiful mist sprays are non-toxic and are proven to kill 99.9% of germs. Available in four divine scents:
Looking for more tips on how to improve your breathing and create everyday balance? Checkout our article here.