Unless you have a breathing disorder or a yoga instructor is leading you through breathing exercises (Pranayama), you may give little thought to how you breathe. But consciously regulating your breathing can neutralize stress, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion. Checking your breath throughout the day can help you detect bad habits and adopt healthier ones. Here are four common breathing blunders and some solutions to them.
Upper chest breathing. Emotional stress can tighten muscles throughout the body, including your chest. This can limit the ability of your lungs to expand fully when you inhale, so you end up taking rapid, shallow breaths that fill only the upper half of your lungs. This results in less oxygen being delivered to you body. Remedy: Breath abdominally When you breathe in let your belly expand rather than your chest. Try placing your hand on your upper abdomen and take slow deep breaths. Imagine your belly is a balloon and you're filling it with air. Feel your hand rise and fall with your inhalation and exhalation.
Insufficient exhalation. If you watch people breath, you'll see that most of them use effort to inhale but none to exhale. As a result, exhalation is usually passive and takes less time than inhalation. When you breathe this way you don't move nearly as much air in and out of your lungs as you could. Remedy: Taking a deep, then let it out effortlessly. Next use your diaphragm to push the remaining air out of your lungs. Try to make you exhalation as long as or slightly longer than your inhalation.
Mouth Breathing: It's best to breathe through your nose. The hairs that line the nostrils help cleanse the air you take in by filterning out dust particles. When you breathe through your mouth, you may take in air very quickly, which may upset the correct balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. There are some scientists that believe that the air must contact the sensory nerves in the nose in order to stimulate the brain and promote optimal functioning of the nervous system. Remedy: Close your mouth. If chronic sinus problems keep you from breathing through you nose, get proper treatment.
Irregular and noisy breathing. Emotional stress can tighten muscles throughout the body, including your chest. This can limit the ability of you lungs to expand fully when you inhale, so you take rapid, shallow breaths that fill only the upper half of your lungs. Remedy: Breathe abdominally. When you breathe in, allow your belly to expand rather than your chest. Place a hand on your abdomen and take a slow, deep breath. Feel your hand rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. With practice you can train yourself to breathe from the abdomen most of the time.