Breathing is the vital function that gives us life. At the moment of inception, we were granted life with our first breath. It is in our very being to benefit and embrace the gift of breath. Breathing well and raising awareness of our breath can immensely benefit your life. It can be customized to fit your needs at the time. Great motivators to begin the healthy habit of breathing more often are minimizing daily stress and pain. Whether we have good or poor breathing habits is up to us. Our breathing habits are an integral part to the functioning of our bodies, aiding in psychoemotional well-being to facilitating digestion.
Healthy breathing improves posture and positively affects the way we move. It affects how we manage stress, mental outlook, appearance, emotional resilience and our overall health. We run into trouble when breathing debilitates and becomes a poor, malfunctional habit.
In Western culture with our busy and hectic lives, people often take the significance of breathing for granted or aren’t very aware of their breath. Only when we experience inconveniences stunting our breath- labored from taking the stairs or nose stuffiness from the flu – do we pay attention to it.
The difference between healthy and poor breathing isn’t so cut and dry though. Depending on the demands of the situation, our bodies are equipped with muscles, bones, and fascia, and not just solely our lungs and diaphragm , in which we rely on to assist in breathing. For instance, if I had a cold and my sinuses were clogged, I would have to breathe through my mouth. Or if I were in a frightening or exciting situation, I’d probably breathe very frequently and frantically with the upper portion of my lungs, scalenes, and pectoralis minor (both of which are muscles that assist in respiration). Other muscles of the chest, shoulders, abdomen, and spine assist in breathing as well.
It is common to notice in clients fall into the habit of their “emergency breath.” It is characterized by shallow, upper lung breathing and scalenes, that does not engage the diaphragm very much. This kind of breathing is typical of the ‘fight-or-flight response,’ which occurs in stressful or fear-inducing situations, far astray from the steady rhythm of normal breathing. Perhaps it’s caused by our hectic schedules and the demands of life brewing in our thoughts. I believe this is all the more reason to access and tap into deeper breathing.
Just like the human body is very complex, realistically there isn’t one single way to breathe healthier. It is a combination of the upper trunk and abdominal areas, but fundamentally normal respiration begins with the diaphragm. When you “belly breathe,” this is essentially the muscle you are engaging and the primary muscle of respiration. It is dome-shaped that’s located at the lower portion of your ribcage. As you inhale, the diaphragm travels downward expanding your abdomen, and travels back up shrinking your stomach as you exhale. When we are resting, the diaphragm is responsible for most of the respiration taking place. Watch this 3-dimensional video clip of the diaphragm to see it in action…
So once again, breathing well has profound benefits for your health and posture. The diaphragm is one of the linchpin areas for healthy posture. When you inhale, it pulls the lungs down raising your chest. And as you exhale, the diaphragm rises returning to its dome-shaped form while keeping your chest from caving in.
Bottom line: The diaphragm creates lift in your posture.
Bringing awareness to your breath is a good start in order to begin understanding your unconscious breathing habits. Are you a lung breather? Or are you a belly breather? In which circumstances are you more aware of your breath? In what situations can you bring awareness to your breath? See what you notice…
Look out for my next post on determining if your body prefers to lung breathe or belly breathe. Thanks for reading!