Breathing — we do it every day.
Inhaling and exhaling out from your nose and mouth, never really thinking closely about how it’s done.
When you breathe effectively, there is a balanced tempo. This helps to maintain healthy levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, ultimately working in your body’s favor.
How to perfect your breath
It’s a largely involuntary action, but breathing itself is so important to how we feel, stand, sit, and perform. And although it is so naturally part of us, a lot of us may be breathing unnaturally and incorrectly all this time.
Use your nose
While this might seem normal to some of you, breathing should be done through the nose. Not only do slow breaths via the nose help work the lungs more efficiently, it also facilitates nitric oxide intake. This is important in helping oxygen transport throughout the body more effectively.
As Dr. John Lee, the Head of Rhinology at the University of Toronto states,
The sinuses are the primary place where we produce nitric oxide, [which] has antibacterial and antiviral effects. This gas makes its way to the lungs as we breathe in through our noses.
Moreover, breathing through the nose also helps to filter out toxins that are in the air, as it prevents them from entering our body easily. The nose also helps to humidify dry air and make it more tolerable for our lungs.
Surprisingly, the nose does a lot more than we realize. So, whatever you do, if possible — unless you have sinus issues — breathe through your nose.
Deep breathing: use the belly
Another important way to ensure we’re breathing properly is to breathe slowly and bring all that air down toward the belly.
As the air goes down, your diaphragm contracts, lungs get pulled downward, and the lower belly rises, filled with air. This is what is known as deep breathing, ‘belly breathing,’ or more formally diaphragmatic breathing.
We’re so often taught by society that having a flat stomach is not attractive. As such, a lot of us attempt to keep the stomach tight by holding that muscle. However, what ends up occurring from this is that our diaphragm is limited in the range of motion, and the lower part of our lungs does not get full oxygen. The by-product of that is what is called shallow breathing (or chest breathing). This is not good for us, as it can cause us to feel short of breath and lead to feeling anxious.
Understanding the connected breath
Breathing is connected to everything we do. From the way we move to how we sleep, understanding the unified connection of our breath with our body and mind can be great for our lives moving forward.
- Better posture — Proper breathing will help up your rib cage, giving greater mobility in the spine, shoulders, hips, and pelvic girdle. The better your breathing, the more control you have for each movement across your body.
- Less pain — Breathing has connections to stimulating the vagus nerve, the part of your body responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, respiratory, and vasomotor activity. By breathing better, you help to calm the nervous system and in turn, control how your body responds to pain effectively.
- Less pressure — You always hear to focus on building your core. This is because our body’s core relates to the pressure system that determines our overall strength and stability. Breathing is how we regulate this. Any athlete can tell you that breathing is key to building a strong, functioning core.
- Increased performance — Since breathing and moving are two fundamental components of life, it’s no surprise they are interlinked. Breathing better can help with coordination, and bodily control, improve resilience and regulate oxygen balance. All of these are crucial to physical and mental performance.
How breathing properly will change your life
Breathing better seems like such a simple fix, and yet it can do wonders to our lives.
Improving our breathing does more than just enhance our cardio endurance. Proper breathing helps our body increase in everything from how we accelerate and decelerate, to our general speed, precision, and overall power.
Breathing has a close association with mental clarity, focus, and even our sleeping patterns. Adjusting the way we breathe can help with increasing efficiency in our mobility, but in addition, boost our energy levels as well.
Breathing slow, less, and through the nose balances the levels of respiratory gases in the body and sends the maximum amount of oxygen to the maximum amount of tissues so that our cells have the maximum amount of electron reactivity.— James Nestor, Author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art
Breathing better for a clearer mind
From muscle tension relief to pain alleviation, there is no doubt that breathing the right way can bring about a myriad of benefits.
With so much noise in the world, from distractions hitting us left and right, it can be hard not to get caught up in the chaos of our day-to-day lives. We’re all consuming more regularly, working longer hours, and feeling bouts of cabin fever hit us as we stay indoors more. It’s no wonder that burnout has worsened over the years and levels of stress, anxiety, and depression are high, especially since the pandemic.
If for no other reason than for your mental well-being, it’s high time to discover this lost art of the breath, and take some time to sit back, relax, and learn to breathe to live better.
More than ever before, this is exactly what you need.