While breathing is second nature to us all – we do it without even thinking – how you do it can influence your physical and mental health. Bad breathing not only affects your sleep, stress levels, digestive system, mood, immunity, and brain but also has visible effects on your skin, hair, teeth, and facial structure. Good breathing, on the other hand, has been touted as the key to increased energy levels, improved general health, decreased stress, diminished anxiety and overall, happier life. Some medical studies even go so far as to suggest breathing is a significant factor, in both health and longevity, and could pave the way to a long life, or early death. So, now we have your attention, are you breathing properly?
Breathing correctly means breathing in a way that is ideal for your body – the way we were designed to breathe. So, follow our simple steps and make your 25,000 daily breaths count.
Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling through your nose, and not your mouth. Your nose is designed to filter air before passing it through to your lungs. The air you inhale directly through your mouth is unfiltered, and contains infections, viruses, and bacteria.
Most of us mistakenly breathe into our chests. Well, that’s is a big no-no. To respire correctly, focus on breathing into your diaphragm (the muscle at the bottom of your chest). Lie on your back and rest your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach. If you are inhaling and exhaling properly then only your left hand will move up and down while your right remains still.
Now, it’s time to slow down your breathing. If you consider one inhalation and one exhalation as one cycle, then try to slow your breathing to eight cycles each minute. This deceleration in breathing will help regulate the flow of oxygen and CO2 to your lungs.
Focus on relaxing, especially if you are feeling stressed or tense. If you are agitated, then you will tend to revert to bad breathing habits of short, shallow, stressed breathing.
Rhythmic breathing not only helps control the flow of air, but regulates heart rate, and eases anxiety. Each component of your body follows a natural rhythm and breathing is no different. Listen to your body and follow its slow, natural breathing pattern.
Now you have got the hang of breathing correctly, sit upright and concentrate on keeping your back straight and your shoulder blades together. This correct posture allows for deeper breathing and gives the diaphragm more space to work.
To ensure you continue breathing correctly, it’s important to remain aware of how you are breathing as you try and retrain your body. To keep your breathing in check, begin by analyzing it every 30 minutes – set an alarm to remind you. Are you breathing in and out through your nose? Are you breathing slowly and rhythmically? Are you breathing into your belly or your chest? If you notice you are making mistakes, correct them. As the corrections become fewer and further between, extend your check times to once an hour, and then once every three hours and so on.
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