Breathing is crucial to our survival. Breathing well is crucial to our health. No special fitness equipment necessary and you can practice anytime, anywhere. Here’s the why and how.
Take a deep breath... Ok, did you breathe upward or downward? If you felt an upward motion and your shoulders rising, you aren’t taking an efficient breath. If you try to breath upward and lift your ribs, there is only so far you can move your rib cage. Where is the only place your lungs can expand without being blocked by ribs? Downward, and we have a specially designed muscle, the diaphragm, designed just for that purpose. Learn to breath downward (abdominal breathing) and you will be able to supply far more oxygen to your body. If it feels tight and uncomfortable, be patient, the diaphragm is a muscle and it will stretch out.
Beyond increasing your lung capacity what else will abdominal breathing do for you?
1) The diaphragm is controlled by the vagus nerve, the nerve mainly responsible for your body’s ability to relax, the antidote to fight or flight. When you breath into your abdomen, you stimulate this nerve, immediately sending a cascade of signals through your body that reduce stress.
2) Deep breathing into your diaphragm squeezes and relaxes pressure on your internal organs. This acts like a massage for your organs, moving stagnant blood out and fresh blood in.
3) Breathing into your abdomen takes the stress off the muscles of your neck and shoulders. Ever wonder why so many people have tight neck and shoulders? If you breathe up and out, you are using muscles that aren’t meant to be used for breathing unless you have a major emergency. Use them all day and they will surely tense up. These neck muscles just happen to surround the nerve and blood supply for your arms and head.
These are but a few of the reasons why abdominal breathing is one of the most basic ways to improve your health. It is very common for people not to realize they are trying to breath in a very inefficient way and it can take a while to change. You can practice anytime and anywhere, soon all you will notice is that your tension has diminished and your body is functioning better than ever. Enjoy!