Breathe my Dear. . .

In spring, with all the buzzing about it can be easy to ignore the little signs of fatigue, overexertion, and joint and muscle pain, but with just a few minutes of self-care everyday you can keep your energy up and keep your body feeling great. There are lots of ways to incorporate self-care throughout your day, but there’s ONE thing you can do ALL day EVERY day to improve your health, your sense of wellbeing and your energy level – and it’s SO simple!

Just breathe.
Correctly.

YES there is a right and a wrong way to breathe! Interestingly we’re all born knowing how to breathe correctly, using our diaphragm and letting our bellies puff out with every breath, our upper chests barely moving at all. Sadly we lose this basic instinct as we grow up, we learn to keep our belly’s flat (“suck it in!”) and to make our chests look big (both true for men and women!), we experience stress and trauma and gradually shift from our natural state of “belly breathing” to more shallow “chest breathing”.

In fact the average person uses only around 20% of their lung capacity.


Belly Breathing Benefits

  1. 1. Longer, Healthier life
  2. 2. Improved blood circulation
  3. 3. Reduced swelling
  4. 4. More energy
  5. 5. Better sports performance
  6. 6. Faster recovery
  7. 7. Better sleep
  8. 8. Better mood, lower levels of anxiety
  9. 9. Better mental focus and clarity
  10. 10. Better digestion
  11. 11. Better complexion
  12. 12. Optimal metabolism
  13. 13. Less joint and muscle pain
  14. 14. Lower blood pressure

Chest breathing, where your belly stays flat and your upper chest expands during inhalation, requires the recruitment of upper chest, back and neck muscles. During exercise or other physical exertion it’s normal for this extra recruitment to occur in conjunction with abdominal breathing – it’s a way to fully maximize your lung capacity; however when at rest your upper chest should not expand at all during inhalation, all of the movement should occur in your lower ribs and abdomen.

In fact, neck and shoulder tightness and pain is associated with prolonged chest breathing.

When you inhale your diaphragm contracts and moves downward into your abdomen, your abdomen expands to make room for your stomach, liver, and large intestines and the diaphragm applies a gentle pressure on all of those organs – the abdominal organs are designed to receive this regular, rhythmic massage and up and down movement. When you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and moves upward applying pressure to the lungs helping to expel the last breath. Additionally this gentle up and down motion serves as a pump to move low pressure lymphatic fluid and venous blood up from the lower body. All the while your heart, located between your lungs and resting right on top of your diaphragm, is riding this gentle wave of the diaphragm, in a single day your diaphragm contracts and relaxes approximately 22,000 times!

Just picture your happy little heart gently bobbing up and down, riding the wave of your breath.

Since the diaphragm is a skeletal muscle (like your biceps, quads, etc) it can be trained and strengthened with a few simple breathing exercises that you can incorporate into your day in as little as 5min at a time.

SO in the spirit of rebirth let’s be like babies again and breathe fully from our bellies and optimize our health, well-being and longevity! WOOHOO!

Spring Training Plan

For your Diaphragm!

This simple breathing exercise is from the Cleveland Clinic. To begin, do it twice a day, then after the first month add another session during your workday. Keep in mind that the goal is to breathe from your diaphragm with every breath, so bring your awareness to your breath throughout the day. There are a few free mobile apps available for guided breathing, there are links at the end for two that I like.

  1. 1. Sit or lie down comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed, place one hand on your belly and the one on your chest, this will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
  2. 2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  3. 3. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips (see below for details about this). The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.
  4. 4. Continue for 5-10min – if you feel light headed or anxious, shorten the time, but these feelings will eventually pass as you strengthen your diaphragm and retrain your breathing pattern

Benefits of exhaling through pursed lips (as if you were going to blow out a candle):

  • + Improves ventilation
  • + Releases trapped air in the lungs
  • + Keeps the airways open longer and decreases the work of breathing
  • + Prolongs exhalation to slow the breathing rate
  • + Improves breathing patterns by moving old air out of the lungs and allowing for new air to enter the lungs
  • + Relieves shortness of breath
  • + Causes general relaxation

 More Belly Breathing Benefits


Need to Detox?
Breathe.
70% of the elimination of wastes from the body occurs through breathing!

Need to shed a few pounds?

*Breathe.

84% of fat is shed via breathing out carbon dioxide!
*you still need to get your heart rate and breathing rate elevated through physical exercise in order to breathe away fat; this fact is a recent result of a research study conducted in Australia, see the references below for more info.


Breathe deeply while in the garden and also reap the rewards of mood boosting Myocobacterium vaccae, a microbe found in the soil that has been shown to have the same effect on the brain as antidepressants like Prozac, except the soil microbes have NO adverse health effects.

Me with my giant pile of compost, getting a dose of happy 🙂

Happy Belly Breathing!!

Kim

References

Harvard HealthBeat, Learning Diaphragmatic Breathing; http://www.health.harvard.edu/lung-health-and-disease/learning-diaphragmatic-breathing

Cleveland Clinic, Breathing Exercises; https:// my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Understanding_COPD/hic_Pulmonary_Rehabilitation_Is_it_for_You/hic_Diaphragmatic_Breathing

BBC Online, Fat ‘breathed out’ of body via lungs, say scientists; http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30494009

RA Osteopathic, THE DIAPHRAGM – ARGUABLY, OUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSCLE!; http://www.osteopathywoolwich.com/the-diaphragm-arguably-our-most-important-muscle/

Jacksonville Review, Breathing for Better Digestion – By Louise Lavergne; http://jacksonvillereview.com/breathing-for-better-digestion-by-louise-lavergne/

Gardending Know How, Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy; http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm

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