How to breathe

Many people don’t know that deep breathing from the diaphragm is important to their overall health and stress reduction.

Babies breathe from their diaphragm, and one way that we can restore strength and balance is to perform actions that bring us back to our developmental roots. Infants integrate their bodies with the environment through basic motions that can help us understand our nervous system.

Most adults have adopted an unhealthy way of breathing mostly by expanding their rib cages. This method of breathing is actually your body’s “emergency” breathing system. Because rib cage breathing is related to the fight-or-flight response, doing it can actually activate your body’s stress response system, which is very unhealthy in the long run. Why do people breathe this way? One reason is that it allows you to suck in your stomach in order to appear more in shape than you really are.

By re-training yourself to breathe from your diaphragm–to breathe more from your belly than your chest–you can reduce the stress response associated with chest breathing and help rekindle the core connection with breathing and coordination that you developed as a baby.

A simple and effective starting point for training would be to lay on the floor with your knees bent, elbows at a right angle, hands beside your head on the floor. Exhale through your mouth while sliding your hands overhead, then inhale and slide your hands back down to their starting point. Repeat 5 times.

To make sure you’re breathing through your diaphragm, try putting a small weight (like a beanbag or paperweight) on your stomach, and feel your stomach expand when you inhale and shrink when you exhale. The weight should provide you with good feedback by making you more aware of your stomach. A variation on the first exercise would be: either standing or laying on your back, knees bent–breathe through your nose, rest your right hand in your lap or over your head on the floor, and hold on to the balloon with your left hand. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to blow up the balloon.

These easy exercises will help re-train your body to breathe from its center, the diaphragm.
We take up to 21,000 breaths a day, or about 8 million over the course of a year. When you do something that often, you want to get good at it.

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