Breathe in deep for me. Hold it and let it out. Now breathe in again, but this time pay attention to which parts of your body are moving. Your shoulders? Your chest? Or is your belly? Because according to this book I've been reading, most of us aren't breathing well enough to promote optimum health. In other words, you can feel better and be healthier just by changing the way you suck in air.
First, let's look at what we're doing wrong:
- Clavicular breathing - Clavicular breathing is the most shallow and worst possible type. The shoulders and collarbone are raised while the abdomen is contracted during inhalation. Maximum effort is made, but a minimum amount of air is obtained. It is especially easy for pregnant women and mothers, men with "spare tires" and people who slouch or smoke cigarettes to fall into this breathing habit.
- Intercostal breathing - Intercostal breathing is when the diaphragm is pushed upward, and the abdomen drawn in. The ribs are raised somewhat, and the chest is partially expanded. Many people breathe this way, but it can be seen most obviously in basketball players and other atheletes whose chests are heaving as they breathe.
Diaphragmatic breathing uses the diaphragm to breathe into and fill the entire lung. The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. It is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs. Benefits you receive from breathing deep from your belly include alertness, increased energy, relaxation, improved functioning of your waste-removal system (that goes for expelling toxins in your liver and kidneys as well as your poo), improved cardiovascular functions and a stronger diaphragm.
wikiHow suggests this method to learn abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing:
- Put one palm on the belly, an inch below your navel, the other on the sternum.
- Exhale through your mouth and gently pull the abdomen in.
- Inhale through your nose and expand your abdomen, focusing on expanding the lower abdomen.
- Let the chest stay relatively still.
- Repeat as many times as you like. Recommended: try nine times as a start.
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