What No-one Tells You About Breathing: The Forgotten Secret to a Healthy Life & Happiness
When was the last time you took a moment to focus simply on your breathing? To consider how often you inhale and exhale, as well as the way you do so? We all assume our bodies are naturally capable of controlling our breath in a way that is optimal to health, but the truth is with age, stress, and technology we often develop poor habits that we don't easily notice. Many of us may have never learned how to breathe properly to being with!
Do you find yourself often sighing, yawning regularly or hearing yourself inhale and exhale? These are some of the symptoms of over-breathing. Without even knowing it, your breathing habits may be harming your digestion, nervous system, muscles, sleep, mood – even the development of your teeth and facial structure.
We’ve all been raised to believe deep breathing is best because it allows a greater amount to oxygen into the lungs. It may come as a surprising truth to now learn that oxygen deficiency is not caused by a lack of oxygen but actually by a lack of carbon dioxide! Every time we breathe in, we allow oxygen to enter into our bloodstream and carbon dioxide exits out of the bloodstream. Every time we exhale, we breathe out this carbon dioxide. By inhaling too deeply or often, we actually take in too much oxygen and deprive ourselves of sufficient carbon dioxide levels that aid in transporting oxygen into our tissues.
This kind of ‘chronic over-breathing’ can narrow the airways, constrict blood vessels and limit the body’s ability to oxygenate its essential organs, eventually leading to a whole host of health disorders including asthma, anxiety, heart problems and insomnia. Ineffective breathing can also make you gain weight. Yup. Have I got your attention now?
Well, before you begin panicking, stress not! There are ways to effectively ‘re-master’ good breathing habits. And this blog will teach you how.
According to author and breath specialist Patrick McKeown, by learning how to master the most overlooked function of the body – breathing – we can improve our health, achieve weight loss and improve sports performance. His New York Times bestseller The Oxygen Advantage hit shelves in 2016 and was immediately celebrated for its simple yet revolutionary approach to improving the body’s oxygen use. By committing to a few simple breathing exercises every day, McKeown vows it is possible to see rapid improvements in one’s mental and physical health in a very short amount of time. Warning: side effects include more energy, better health, increased concentration, decreased anxiety, less fear, better relationships, and vastly improved levels of happiness. Sound too good to be true?
Simply look to breathmaster-cum-superhuman Wim Hof for inspiration – a Dutch man who pioneered a method of breathing so powerful it allows him to run marathons barefoot across snow covered surfaces and immerse his naked body into glacial waters for extended periods of time. A holder of 20 Guinness World Records for withstanding extreme temperatures, Hof is devoted to the idea of a “world without sickness” – a reality he believes is achievable through a heightened focus on the way we as humans breathe. He calls it the The Wim Hof Method — a breathing technique that allows people to control the autonomous systems of the body. Using a breathing technique that can be likened to controlled ventilation, the method can lead to tangible health benefits: increased energy, improved immunity and lowered stress levels. For more details on the method itself you’ll need to pay, but the basics of the method are available for all to see.
Hof isn’t the only one pioneering new methods of controlled breathing. The Buteyko Breathing Method, invented by Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Pavlovich, also teaches how to reverse chronic over-breathing and its associated respiratory conditions, such as asthma, simply by retraining the body's natural breathing pattern. Based on the idea that hyperventilation can lead to low carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which can subsequently lead to disturbances of the acid-base balance in the blood and the lowering of tissue oxygen levels, the foundation of the Buteyko method is a series of reduced-breathing exercises that focus on nasal-breathing, breath-holding and relaxation.
So what can you do right now to improve your health almost effortlessly? Here you go!
FIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE BREATHING INSTANTLY
By committing to a few simple exercises every day, you too can enjoy rapid improvements in your mental and physical health. Here are a few easy ways to improve your breathing:
1. Breathe through your nose
When you breathe through your mouth, the lungs get a lot more “unfiltered” air – the kind full of viruses and bacteria. Nasal breathing, on the other hand, promotes good oral health AND encourages good facial development and straight teeth. A closed mouth can help the jaw grow in a way that accommodates all the teeth.
2. Get comfortable filling & emptying your lungs completely
70–80% of all inhaling should be marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the upper chest. By doing this the diaphragm is able to ‘massage’ your liver, stomach, and intestines, giving these organs some much needed TLC.
When your body is relaxed, your breathing will naturally slow down and it will become easier to control the number of seconds it takes to inhale and exhale. Learning how to meditate, or taking up yoga, are brilliant ways to learn how to relax “on demand.”
4. Count your breath (breathing isometrics)
While depth and rhythm of breath may vary, inhales should always last several seconds and exhales should be long and slow. When exercising, establishing a regular breath count can help you remain focused on breathing properly.
5. Analyze your breathing regularly
What's this mean? Simply make sure you don’t forget these tips instantly. Put up a note on your bathroom mirror or laptop screen, set an alarm on your phone - Make sure you spend at least five minutes a day getting into the habit of stopping and really paying attention to your breathing: what’s it like at different times throughout the day? How does it change as your mental state changes? How many seconds is a full cycle of breath when you are angry? Stressed? Watching TV? You get the drift.
So now that the secret is out of the bag, there's no reason to keep it to yourself! Get out there and share with a friend! We wish you both some very Happy Breathing!!
By Lauren Cameron