We really never give breathing a second thought. We mostly feel convinced that we are breathing properly – it is really surprising how many people are actually not doing this basic task correctly. The other strange fact is that we were doing it right when we were little babies – if you watch babies sleeping, you will see their abdomen move up and down as they breathe. They are actually taking in nice deep relaxing breaths. However, as we get older, maybe from stress or from anxiety and panic, this basic instinct of correct breathing gets modified and we start taking in shallower and often rapid breaths that hardly go past 1/3 of our lungs. Stress often prepares our body for a flight or fight mode, which may lead to short and rapid breathing or hyperventilation that in turn can become a habit with continuous levels of constant anxiety.
Improper ways of breathing can affect our well-being both physically and mentally. Insufficient oxygenated blood can make us feel exhausted, increase our blood pressure, tire our muscles quicker and affect the activity of the brain. Thus, we would feel more tired and sluggish due to the lack of essential nutrients in the blood. On the other hand, taking deep breaths has the opposite effect of lifting up our moods as well as boosting our physical well-being when we have sufficient oxygenated blood flowing through our system. The saying, ‘Take a deep breath and relax’ is truly a healthy saying. It is literally how we should be breathing to feel relaxed as well as super energized.
Proper breathing starts with the nose and not through the mouth. Also, the breathing should be silent and if it is not, then we are either hyperventilating or have obstructions in the nasal pathways that typically lead to sleep problems and snoring. Finally taking deep breath may require some amount of practice to nail it. Our breathing system involve the diaphragm and muscles in the abdomen and chest. In order to get a feel for proper breathing, sit upright and comfortable, place your left arm on your upper chest while your right arm should be on the abdomen, in the cavity of the rib cage. Inhale deep until you feel the air go all the way down to your belly, then slowly exhale – all the while being conscious to have our body muscles relaxed. When we breathe properly, the right arm placed over the abdomen should move up and down, just like it did when we were babies!