We do it over 20.000 times every day. Most of the time we don’t even notice it. When we do though it is often because something doesn’t feel quite right. Let’s learn about key breathing techniques, so that if you do get out of breath you have a toolset ready for whenever you need it.
Let’s start by doing a little self-experiment: Please take one deep breath now.
What did you observe about your body? Did your shoulders come up and did your chest expand like a puffed up bird?
While the human body is designed to be a 'belly breather', most of us actually do chest breathing.1 This seemingly normal way of chest breathing has several disadvantages for our body. On the one hand it is inefficient in terms of transporting oxygen to your cells and on the other hand it can cause tension around the head, neck and shoulder muscles.
If you do this little experiment with grown ups, most of the time you will notice how their shoulders go up and their chest expands. Small children or sleeping people on the other hand still do it correctly by breathing into their belly. When we grow up we tend to sit more and more, which contributes to the breathing moving towards the chest and upper body.
When you do belly breathing you use the diaphragmatic muscle. It is located in you lower abdomen just below the lungs. It helps your lungs to fully expand by moving downwards and expanding the lungs with every inhale. Diaphragmatic breathing offers several benefits to your body. It facilitates full oxygen carbon dioxide gas exchange efficitently and can help you relax as it slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.2
To practice belly breathing and strengthen your diaphragmatic muscle lie down on your back in a relaxed and comfortable position. You can use a pillow for your head and keep your legs bent.3
- Now place your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your upper belly, just below your rib cage.
- Start to gently breathe in through your nose and then breathe out through your nose.
- With every exhale relax your upper chest and your shoulders.
- While breathing in through your nose, start to focus on breathing into your lower hand.
- You should feel how your hand rises slightly with every inhale and sinks back down with every exhale. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
This article is part of a project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 761708.