There’s a lot more to breathing than most folks realise. With the right breathing techniques you can lower stress, relieve muscle tension, sleep better and boost your energy.
Breathing practices have been used since way back for situations such as child birth, yoga, martial arts, meditation, medical procedures, asthma and more. We know that we need to breathe to get oxygen into our blood but the effects of breath go way beyond that.
To keep it simple try this exercise: When you get a fright what do you do? (take a breath in and hold it). When you know everything is OK, what do you do? (let go of breath, breathe out). When we breathe in (inspiration) our body is on alert, and when we breathe out (expiration) it relaxes. If we inspire and expire evenly, then our body is balanced. Unfortunately in our busy world, most of us end up doing longer inspirations than expirations.
The other cool bit about breathing is that it uses two sets of muscles. The primary muscle is your diaphragm- a big parachute shape muscle that sits under your lungs. When you breathe your diaphragm contracts downward, pushing on your digestive organs and making your belly go out. The secondary muscles are your scalenes- they go from your neck down to the top of your rib cage. In times of physical demand (when you need even more oxygen), they contract to lift your ribs higher and allow your lungs to expand even more. Again in our busy world, the secondary breathing often takes over from primary breathing, and we end up with very tight shoulders and neck muscles (sound familiar!).
How’s your breathing? Lye on you back, put one hand on your chest, one on your stomach. Breathe in and out naturally three times and notice which hand rises. This tells you whether you are naturally breathing into your belly (ideal) or your chest. Now try to breathe in for a count of four, and then breathe out for a count of four. Repeat this 3 times. If you are struggling to breathe out for four counts, you most likely have an imbalance in your inspiration to expiration ratio.
There is great news, you can retrain your breathing style and it can make a massive difference to your health:
– Reduce muscle tension especially in the neck and shoulders
– Lower stress & stress hormones
– Increase sense of ease in body
– Calm your mind, assist with sleeping
– Warm your hands and feet
Here is a simple 1 minute exercise to ideally do in a quiet environment (but even in a busy workplace or home it can still work). Sit or lye comfortably. Close your eyes if you can, with one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Count to four as you breathe through your nose and into your belly (feel your hand rise), then let the air out slowly for a count of four. Repeat 6 times. Don’t worry if you can’t breathe solely into your belly yet, it takes time to build up the muscle strength.
As breathing techniques have been around since day dot, there are many to choose from. Check out five awesome apps for your iPhone– It’s not a one size fits all, play around until you find one that works for you. Also of more info on the physiology of breathing check out our breathing handout.
These simple and quick practices can make a massive difference to your overall health and also support your Chiropractic adjustments. Why not invest a minute of your time today to blow out a few cobwebs 🙂
Happy health from the team @ Chirobalance.