When is the last time you thought about breathing or even took a few seconds to notice how you breathe? Most of us take it for granted that we are breathing on our own and we do not understand the importance behind breathing. A lot of us are shallow breathers; we do not use our entire lung capacity to breathe with.
The most efficient method of breathing is to fill the lungs so that as much surface area is exposed to oxygen. The lungs are filled with alveoli that are filled with tiny capillaries. These capillaries will absorb oxygen from the air into the blood and release carbon dioxide from the blood into the air. The oxygen is then spread throughout the body through the blood. If we are not "flushing" out our lungs with deep breathes, thinks of all the carbon dioxide that is just staying in our lungs as we continue to breathe each day.
Infants and children use diaphragmatic breathing; it is our innate way of breathing. However as we get older and take more control of our breathing we move away from this innate method and we adopt swallow breathing or even breathe withholding. The shallow breathing (intercostal breathing) will only utilize the upper and middle areas of the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing involves the full contraction and relaxation of the diaphragm to pull more oxygen into the lungs, while intercostal breathing uses mostly the muscles that are found between our ribs and only a small amount of the diaphragm.
The following exercise will help you practice diaphragmatic breathing. If you practice it daily, it will become more natural and can help to reduce daily stress.
1. Sit upright in a chair with both feet on the floor.
2. Place hands palm side down on legs.
3. Take three deep slow breaths with mouth slightly open and relax. Allow yourself to feel the stress exit your body as you breathe out.
4. Inhale completely through nostrils with mouth closed pushing out lower abdomen/stomach area as the air moves in. This movement allows for contraction of diaphragm.
5. Exhale completely through nostrils forcing the air out and sucking abdomen in under ribs and relaxing the diaphragm.
6. Do this procedure in a series of 7 breaths, rest for 2 minutes, then repeat the process two more times. For a total of 3 times per day.
This is a great exercise to do daily, along with doing it when you notice that you are stressed out or have been holding your breathe for a bit. Take time to focus on your breathing every day.