If I told you all you have to do to make a major difference in your health was to breathe differently, would you do it?
Most people breathe very shallowly in day-to-day life. This is often referred to as “chest breathing.” Chest breathing generally starts between ages 4 and 7, which is when you start to develop voluntary control of the musculature in the thoracic region (chest).
But do you ever wonder why babies have that wonderful ability to cry and scream very loudly, despite their size? The reason: The way they breathe, which is commonly called “diaphragmatic breathing.” In diaphragmatic breathing, your stomach expands outward, while the lower ribs expand sideways, which causes the diaphragm to contract.
These movements draw air into the lungs, and not just the upper lungs, as in chest breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing fills every part your lungs, including the lower parts. When you exhale, the abdomen pushes in and up. The lower rib cage contracts inward, the diaphragm expands, and the air is forced out.
So why should you breathe from the diaphragm?
The capillaries in your lungs help exchange oxygen with the rest of your body, and there are more of them in the lower parts of the lungs than in the upper parts of the lungs. When you breathe shallowly, you have work harder.
An additional benefit from breathing “low” is that the abdominal muscles expand and contract around all of the organs of digestion. This will assist them in functioning better and promote better digestion.
Finally, imagine feeling more energized and having the ability to think more clearly, with more focus and fewer distractions. Increased oxygen can contribute to greater mental capabilities. Furthermore, higher oxygen content in the blood stream leads to healthier organs, muscles and tissues. I could go on and on about the benefits.
Let’s give it a try. All you need are these four steps:
1. Sit up straight in a chair.
2. Place your hands on your stomach.
3. Inhale through your nose (which filters the air before entering your lungs) and breathe into your stomach, feeling it extend outward (as opposed to your chest).
4. Exhale through your nose or your mouth by pushing your stomach in and up (never down).
With a conscious effort, you could change old habits into healthy new habits. It's truly painless!
You can integrate breathing into your daily living very easily — you simply have to be conscious of it. When you wake up in the morning, think about it. When you go to sleep at night, think about it. Instead of yelling at a stoplight to change, focus on your breath. When someone is talking to you and you have no interest in what they are saying, turn your attention to your breathing.
After you notice the calming and concentrating effects this simple act can have, you'll begin to incorporate it more automatically. Focused individuals tend to accomplish more, enjoy a higher standard of living, and often live life more passionately, making each day an adventure instead of simply a destination.