We tend to take breathing for granted, after all we do it automatically around 22,000 times per day, but would it surprise you to know that improving your breathing could change the way you look, improve lymphatic function, lower your blood pressure and help you cope with stress?
Shallow chest breathing, which is the default for many of us (especially when we are stressed or anxious) leads to higher than desired levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. Whilst this isn’t life threatening, it does cause fatigue, mental fog and impaired tissue function. It also limits the efficiency of your lungs, tenses your muscles, speeds up your heart rate and weakens your diaphragm. Your body receives less oxygen, and your sympathetic nervous system becomes overstimulated.
How should you be breathing?
First, a little biology – your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle between your lungs and your abdomen. As you inhale the diaphragm contracts (lowers) and your lungs expand bring in vital oxygen. As you exhale the diaphragm relaxes (rises) your lungs relax, expelling the carbon dioxide rich air. 75% of your breathing capacity is due to the movement of the diaphragm and 25% to the movement of the ribcage.
One of the first things I teach new students joining my Method Putkisto class is diaphragmatic breathing. Once you become aware of the technique, you can continue to practise on your own; we reinforce the exercises in class until it becomes automatic.
Lie on your back and place your hands around your rib cage, inhale through your nose and focus on the air reaching the lowest part of your lungs. Exhale through your mouth and feel your diaphragm rise up inside your ribcage, expelling the air, squeeze even more air out by pulling your abdominal corset towards your centre.
Now try inhaling slowly to a count of five, pause and hold your breath for a count of 2, then exhale slowly to a count of 5. If this is difficult, start with a shorter breath/smaller count and build up as you practise.
• increases oxygen flow and delivery to your tissues
• massages your lymphatic system (better detoxification)
• massages your internal organs (better detoxification)
• triggers your parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response)
• calms mind and body
• controls ‘fight or flight” response
• raises the capacity of the cardiovascular system
So next time you are feeling ‘jangled”, focus on your breathing!