Breathe to survive. Breathe properly to live.
I hated having to relearn how to breath; I mean it’s a simple, automatic thing that everyone does… why am I taking time out of my day to listen to someone telling me how to breath!? I mean, I guess it’s also an ego thing, no one wants someone telling them that they’re breathing wrong. Or maybe the person teaching me was just a jerk and it could actually be a great experience. And any how, what’s so wrong with the way I’m breathing!? How “wrong” could it be!? Well, as soon as I put my ego aside and listened to breathing instructions, things changed...
Situations changed. Stress changed. Thinking changed. My physiology changed.
so what are these magical instructions that were a bore to listen to? don't worry, i'll make it short:
People can breath through their chest or through their stomach. To check how you breath, place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Now breath. Be aware of what hand is moving while you’re breathing. If your hand on your chest moves first, you’re a chest breather and should probably keep reading. If your hand on your stomach moved out first, well done... but keep reading for entertainment :)
Become a belly breather!
It’s simple, relax and take a breath. Feel as if you’re inhaling all the way into your belly button. Watch your stomach protrude and your ribs expand all around your body. Now exhale through your mouth. Try to limit the movement in your chest. Breath like this 24 hours, 7 days a week for the rest of your life. Depending on situations, I like to take deep breaths: either square breathing - inhale for 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. Repeat a few times. If I’m trying to calm myself down or sleep, I try making my exhalations (~7 seconds) slightly longer than my inhalations (~5-6 seconds). And there you go, most basic breathing instructions. Try them out and experience the benefits…
so what, does this really make an impact on my life? YES!!!!
You want to avoid breathing from your chest for several reasons. First, think about how you breath when you’re stressed out, nervous or anxious. You feel the front of your chest moving up and down, your shoulders and arms following. Although it might look cool for a second if you’re wearing a low cut top, it has a stress response on your body. You’re actually using secondary muscles to aid your breathing like your sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCM), scalene and pec minor. In those stressful situations, the body needs more oxygen and breathing that way will help that happen. But, if you’ve gotten into the habit of constantly breathing like this, it may not look as dramatic on the daily but the body is breathing as if it’s in stress mode. Those secondary muscles are constantly being used when they’re not suppose to, which can contribute to bad posture and lead to several issues (shoulder and mid back pain, pinching nerves leading to pain and a lot of other problems that you wouldn’t think is caused by something you’re not even thinking about!). I think I started chest breathing a very long time ago when I was told to suck in my stomach on the daily so I constantly looked skinny. To a young teenager with some weight insecurities, that sounds very logical and you don’t even think about how it affects your breathing. Then it becomes a habit and next thing you know, you’re a 24 year old chest breather with back pain and who constantly looks stressed out… but at least looks skinny! I also had the most intensely toned upper shoulders, which made me feel kind of good because “woo for muscles when you haven’t worked out!”. But that most likely contributed to my mid back pain when I sat for extended periods of time. It messed up my posture because I was constantly firing those muscles on the front side of my body, giving the classic “text neck” look. When I started breathing properly (as well as a lot of other lifestyle changes), my shoulders completely softened up! May not sound as attractive, but my muscles had gone back to the way they’re suppose to be, which is relaxed when I’m not using them! Screw the constant stomach suck in!
Other than the physical changes that breathing properly can do, what’s really cool is when you notice mental ones! And dealing with stress has forever changed. Breathing through your stomach can get your body into it’s calm and relaxed state (with all the physiologic benefits of that). When your body is relaxed, your mind can as well… and (not to sound dramatic but…) that’s where life changes:
I can only speak from my personal experience, so this is my life shit that’s changed with belly breathing and practicing taking deep breaths. I’ve also been leveling up my health game; working out, eating right and getting chiropractic adjustments … so I can’t owe everything to breathing properly, but it’s like the icing on top and compliments those lifestyle changes really well:
whenever you feel stressed out, take deep breaths
I always do this when I look at my calendar and see the long list of things that I’ve procrastinated and have had to move to do all on one day. I mean, it doesn’t get the work done, but it does get my head from a state of panic and wanting to vent to my friends about how much work I have to do, to a state of getting prepared and ready to take on those tasks.
whenever you feel anxious, take deep breaths
If I’m driving and I have to cross three lanes to make a turn and traffic is crazy (the usual in California), I literally start taking deep breaths in the car. I’m telling you, I’d always feel my heart rate start to go up when I had to change lanes but that doesn’t happen at all anymore! Getting your mind into a calm state really makes any nervous driving situation really easy to deal with, and lessens the road rage! I mean, I’m sure my driving skills didn’t completely change because of this, but if you’ve ever gotten slightly anxious about the thought of driving to somewhere new, through traffic and having to parallel park, try this.
I’ve applied this to every other situation I get nervous or anxious in (which can be a lot…) and it’s totally changed the way I feel. I still get nervous but deep breaths help deal with the uncomfortable feelings (might go away or not) but my mind is more calm than before. Now if only I could figure out how to make this work with public speaking…
whenever you feel cold, take deep breaths
I was sitting in a cafe in New York at the beginning of January, cold AF and trying to decide what I was going to blog about. The cafe I was in only had a table near the door and I swear their heating broke! I was in my jacket shivering from the cold, and being tired didn’t help. So, I started taking deep breaths. Now, it’s not like I all of a sudden I got really warm, but the shivering calmed down and I felt less uncomfortable (and also got a blog idea!). Again, deep breathing doesn’t completely fix the problem but it’s such a simple thing to do in order to feel less uncomfortable. Why wouldn’t you do it?
whenever you've been looking at your computer screen/phone for too long, take deep breaths
My head starts to get foggy and my eyes will water if I stare at a screen for an extended period of time, so to get out of that funk i’ll take some deep breaths and it helps.
whenever you feel bored,take deep breaths
It’s just good for your body to get back into a calm state, and it puts my overthinking brain on a slight pause (which is nice, and necessary). Take deep breaths when you’re driving, waiting in line, walking, feeling hungover, before you go to bed etc…
But, have you tried meditating...
There was a point in my life where I discovered that my mind is usually in a state of constant chatty overdrive, and figured that that was something I really wanted to change. I tried meditating in order to help it. It worked for a bit, but I couldn’t manage to make it a consistent part of my routine. Deep breathing randomly throughout the day to me is almost like meditating on the go. It’s helped a lot and is really easy to incorporate into my daily routine because it’s whenever I want, easy and for a short period of time. From my own experience, I can definitely say that doing this has dramatically changed and contributed to my own healthy lifestyle routine.