Are You Breathing Correctly?
Quite the no-brainer, but we need to breathe to survive. The human body is designed such that it needs a steady inflow and outflow of air (specifically, oxygen and carbon dioxide) to function at optimum capacity. Sure, there are freaks of nature like Chris Angel and David Blaine who seem to be able to function without this extremely essential mechanism, but let’s be honest - you ain’t them.
Let’s cut to the chase - we’ve been breathing ever since we landed on this planet; however, we’ve never really given it much thought. For all practical purposes, breathing is just a mechanism our bodies control and ensure on their own. End of story, right? Except that it’s not.
Breathing has a far greater function in the body than just inhalation and exhalation. How we breathe has a profound impact on our mental well-being, concentration and emotions. Breathing correctly helps one keep calm and control the mind, in addition to helping the body function seamlessly. In fact, it is precisely this function that helps one relax and better handle the countless stresses of daily life.
So how does breathing impact our mind?
The brain is naturally trained to follow the breath. Consequently, how we breathe affects how we feel. Quick, rash breaths leave us feeling hyper and restless; long, deep breaths, on the other hand, have a calming impact on us, enabling us to feel relaxed and alert.
Most people don’t realise this, but there is a correct way to breathe, and chances are you’re not following it. In fact, studies show that a whopping 40% of us breathe incorrectly. The bulk of us suck are stomachs in when we inhale and blow out when we exhale. But here’s the thing - this is the exact opposite of how we should be breathing!
Before you get confused, let’s understand how our body behaves when we’re breathing. The human respiratory system involves the lungs and the diaphragm. The lungs are essentially airbags and they rest on the diaphragm, which is located above the abdomen. When we inhale, our lungs expand with the intake of air, pushing the diaphragm down, forcing our abdomen out. When we exhale, our lungs expel the carbon dioxide from our body, causing them to contract. This, in turn, brings the diaphragm back to its original position, causing our abdomen to contract.
What is the correct breathing technique?
Just to initiate yourself, start with lying on your back with your hand on your tummy. Inhale deeply through your nose, and as you do so, you should feel your lungs expand and your tummy rise. When you can’t inhale anymore, hold your breath a second, and exhale deeply. At this point you should feel your tummy contract. However, try to exhale every bit of the air you just inhaled. Repeat this exercise for about a minute and you’ll find that your body feels more relaxed and your mind, more alert.
What you’re trying to achieve using this technique is essentially a meditative state of being. When you breathe deeply, you are more likely to feel in control of your thoughts and emotions. This is brought on by the increase in the flow of oxygen in the body, which improves the mind’s ability to think clearly, which in turn enables you to make better decisions. This kind of deep breathing also helps in the production of endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’, which normally leave you feeling positive and uplifted. Incorrect breathing, on the other hand, has the opposite effects, leaving one prone to feeling lethargic and unenergetic, in addition to being susceptible to sundry illnesses.
Where’s the catch?
Here’s the beauty of it all - there is no catch! The trick lies in being conscious of your breath - at least initially. The aim is not to inhale more or less air - it is to inhale deeply, utilising the full capacity of the lungs, and exhale, expelling all the air in your lungs. Long, deep breaths ensure more oxygen in your system, which is responsible for the magical change you feel, almost instantly, when you begin to breathe correctly. Monitor your breath for a few days and you’ll find your body will switch to the rhythm on its own.
But what’s probably the most amazing part is how such a little tweak in the breathing technique can impact our overall mood and state of mind. Give it a try yourself and I promise you’ll find a marked improvement in how you feel.
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