Breathing is an unconscious process, and we rarely think about it in our day to day lives. However, as human beings, we are able to focus on our breathing, and control and manipulate it. We are able to be conscious about our breathing, but do we ever take a moment to truly feel it? When was the last time you closed your eyes, and took a moment to feel your breath moving in and out of your lungs? We often take this vital life force for granted.
There are many reasons to try and become one with your breathing. Controlling your breath in specific situations, such as lifting weights, running, or certain psychological states (panic attacks, for example) can help your performance and soothe your body and mind. Learning to breathe properly can clear your mind, boost your immune system, help you sleep better, lower your blood pressure, help you fight stress, and help you feel calm and centered. Just a few minutes of conscious breathing can have positive effects on the state of your mind and body.
Why Did We Forget This?
Take a look at a newborn baby and you will see its small belly rising and falling rhythmically as it breathes. As we grow older, we somehow replace “belly breathing” with “chest breathing” which is shallower.
According to Psych Central, a restriction of the muscular and connective tissues in the chest occurs due to chronic stress. As a result, the range of motion of the chest decreases and the chest doesn’t expand as much as it would with slower, deep breaths. This leads to shallow, “chest” breathing, when the air exchange happens at the top of the lung tissue.
Also, men and women tend to constrict their stomach muscles because it is considered more attractive than a “washboard” stomach. This makes you feel “chest breathing” as normal, even though it adds to anxiety and tension.
What further aggravates the situation is the habit of tobacco and marijuana smoking. If possible, the habit of tobacco smoking should be broken, while the intake of marijuana’s THC can be modified. For example, Shango has interesting edibles which allow consumers to ingest THC, instead of inhale.
How to Re-Connect with and Improve Your Breathing
We can learn to breathe more deeply, just as we can learn to chest breathe. Here are some basic instructions.
- What is your current breathing pattern? Figure it out by sitting or lying in a position that makes you feel relaxed. Put one hand below the notch at the bottom of your ribs and the other one on your upper chest. Start breathing deeply through your nose. You’ll know that you’re breathing with your chest if you don’t feel your bottom hand moving more than your top hand.
- Make a switch. To begin breathing with your belly, you need to consciously get that lower hand to rise more than the upper hand. Once you manage to do that, you’ll know that you’re breathing properly.
- Slow down. Try slowing down your breathing to 8-10 cycles per minute by breathing with your belly. Prevent the upper chest area from expanding, and aim to breathe smoothly and slowly.
“Belly breathing”, known as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, has lots of benefits such as improving stamina, the flow of lymph and blood, reducing tension, and improving your overall sense of well-being. These kinds of exercises should be done at least twice a day, or whenever upsetting thoughts start to overwhelm you. Once you make the exercise a habit and feel comfortable with it, try to incorporate words to enhance it. Say the word ‘relaxation’ while inhaling, and say ‘anger’ or ‘stress’ while exhaling, in order to bring in the emotion you want and release those you don’t want to have around.