“Break-up any kind of tension with deep breathing!”
By the end of this chapter you will have a good idea on how to assist the regulation of the entire body and mind.
The importance of functional breathing
The average person takes 20,000 breaths a day and if you are breathing with a faulty pattern over a long period of time, you can cause yourself harm.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing facilitates the resting of your mind and body, the digesting and assimilating your food, it enables you to sleep deeper, think clearer, heal from disease and basically live a happy and healthy life.
Each time you breathe you’re taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. The way you breathe is an indicator of your mood and your mood is an indicator of your breath. This means that if you change how you breathe you can change your mood. It also means that when your mood changes so does your breath.
The harmful effects of a faulty breathing pattern
A faulty breathing pattern is a common habit that you may have that you may not even know about. Some of these faulty patterns and their corresponding ailments are as follows;
Only breathing into the chest; this can cause neck and back pain because of an over use of secondary respiratory muscles instead of using the diaphragm properly.
Inhalations stronger than exhalations; this can cause a fight or flight response.
Breathe holding; this can indicate trauma in the body.
Mouth breathing; can cause misaligned bite, bad breath, snoring, sleep apnea and night-time urination.
Reverse breathing; this is where the diaphragm rises instead of falls on the inhale and can cause many muscular imbalances coupled with a stress response.
Over breathing; can also cause a stress response and pain in the neck and back.
The above list is certainly not an exhausted one, but you get a general idea on the importance of good breathing mechanics. If you experience these symptoms, then some can be retrained by just doing corrective breathing exercises. But it is far better to implement ALL of the 6 pillars of health to really make a change!
The benefits of deep diaphragmatic breathing
Deep breathing has been a ritual practiced for thousands of years, especially amongst the Eastern cultures. The basic scientific principles suggest a daily routine of deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), a division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) responsible for rest and repair.
Deep breathing facilitates the resting of your mind and body, the digesting and assimilating your food, it enables you to sleep deeper, think clearer, heal from disease and basically live a happy and healthy life.
Consider the following practice to achieve a more functional and relaxing breathing technique.
Diaphragm Breathing Pattern Exercise
This diaphragmatic breathing routine is intended to help you use the diaphragm correctly while breathing to: strengthen the diaphragm, decrease the work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate, decrease oxygen demand, and use less effort and energy to breathe.
Play your favourite relaxing music
Turn your phone and TV off
Wear comfortable cotton fibre clothes
And place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door!
Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
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.
Then tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips.
Do this until you feel a sense of wellbeing, which can happen between 10-20 mins at first, but you can access this faster once you form a routine.
Box Breathing Exercise
As you gain more practice from the above exercise, you can now try the Box Breathing technique which requires you to sit in a chair. Being seated enables you to control the tempos of the breath giving you more control, especially in an upright position. This doesn’t require pursed lips and it’s very calming to your nervous system, which is ideal if you have high tension, anxiety, insomnia and overwhelm.
Its purpose is to stimulate your parasympathetic system (PNS), the rest and repair division of the Autonomic Nervous System. After about 10-20 minutes of Box Breathing, your mind and body should feel calm and relaxed, especially if you do this first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Sit in a comfortable position, preferably cross legged with your back against the wall. If this is too uncomfortable, then find a seated position which best suits you. In your comfortable position, place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Ensure both hands are raising at the same time so you are not over using the neck or back muscles. Ideally your rib cage also expands sideways whilst a dome on your belly appears in the inhalation. Avoid using your neck muscles if you can help it. Let your hands guide your chest cage and belly.
Please switch off screen devices, unless you are using your phone for a timer, but consider putting this on flight mode and ensure you have no other distractions.
1. The first breath is in for 4 seconds. Ensure this breath starts and finishes exactly within this duration. Please avoid breathing all in at once.
2. Then hold on the in breath for 4 seconds.
3. Then exhale for 4 seconds similarly to the inhale tempo instructions.
4. And hold for 5 seconds and then repeat.
After 1 minute you can increase from 4 seconds to 5 seconds with all 4 sides of the box. Continue each increase by 1 second each minute until you are gasping for air and reduce down to the previous duration. For example; if you are gasping at 10 seconds then 9 seconds is your threshold during that particular sitting.
This can change day to day by a few seconds depending on how your nervous system is responding to your stress levels. Do not be concerned by this as your body is continually adapting to its ever changing environment.
You could fall asleep when doing the breathing methods in this eBook, so DO NOT perform these when driving or in the bath or in any other environment which could cause you harm if you were to fall asleep.
If you are finding difficulties with your breathing and are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, then consider contacting myself or another health practitioner for a personalised assessment and program to improve your breathing mechanics.
Just feel good!