Breathing may be second nature to us, but science has shown that most of us are in fact breathing wrong! Our breathing patterns are initially developed during the early stages of our lives, but these patterns can become altered over time. Certain environmental conditions can cause you to be more prone to developing unhealthy breathing habits.
“Breathing is something we do 15,000 times a day, so what ends up happening is that it can become habitual in a positive or negative way,” explains Patricia Ladis, a physiotherapist and certified behavioural breathing expert.
There is an important lesson in learning how to breathe properly. For starters, it greatly reduces anxiety. “When you reach a breath rhythm of inhaling and exhaling for a count of five or more, it changes the nervous system, taking the body from the sympathetic nervous system—that fight-or-flight mode—to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the digest-and-rest mode,” says Maeve Yore, a Pilates instructor, who owns Brooklyn’s Finetune Pilates.
So, how do you go about changing that which has already been deeply ingrained in you?
Avoid taking deep breaths
We all naturally gravitate towards take deep, gulping breaths when we come face to face with a stressful situation. Unfortunately, this approach has been disputed as being erroneous due to the expiration of too much carbon dioxide and the taking in of excessive amounts of oxygen.
The proper way to go it about is to keep your breaths quiet and soft by bringing your tongue to the roof of your mouth and gently breathing in and out through your nose, for anywhere from two to five minutes.
Breathe into your belly
It’s ironic how most adults breather wrongly compared to babies. When you look at babies, their breath comprises deep, full breaths into the belly while we adults tend to breath into our chest and shoulders while sucking the stomach in.
Such shallow breathing habits are actually a reflection of our stressed-out lifestyle. Experts realised that people suck in their stomach and breath shallowly – either consciously or unconsciously – partly because of societal pressure to look thin and not have their belly stick out.
The power of breathing properly does pay dividends in the long run. One of the most obvious changes you’ll notice is an improvement in energy. Subsequently, you’ll realise that you sleep better too. All these improvements will coalesce over time and result in a happier and healthier you!