And What You Can Do About It
“Where the mind goes the breath follows.” Our breathing and mental patterns are deeply bonded. When we are emotionally involved with something or stressed out our breathing tends to become compromised. For example it can become:
Erratic in length
Shallow from the chest
Fast, erratic or shallow breathing over a long term can be linked to many cardiovascular illnesses, and general feelings of lethargy and tiredness. These can all contribute to a shorter life expectancy.
Learning how to breathe correctly is essential for maintaining well-being and balance within the body.
Read this article to learn:
- How to notice your current breathing pattern
- How to breathe correctly
- A simple, 2 minute technique to correct shallow breathing patterns
Poor quality breathing long-term can be linked to many cardiovascular illnesses, as well as general feelings of lethargy and tiredness.
Keep An Eye On Your Breathing
Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation or even if you are watching a tense film take a moment to observe your breathing pattern; are you breathing erratically or shallowly? This will give you an opportunity to become more aware of your physiological response to stressful situations.
Your response normally filters through from a perceived emotional response. For example, if we are watching a horror film we may emotionally be involved with the film, and at certain points feel a sense of fear. However two people could be watching the same film and both could have different emotional stirrings/reactions based on their views/experiences of life.
For those whom fear or anxiety is prevalent, their breathing patterns are likely to be different in that moment from those who are emotionally static whilst viewing the film. After we have been exposed to a stressful event, be it physically experienced, or through the senses, the physiological effects that have been stimulated through the event can continue to resonate within us.
What Happens To Our Breathing In Stressful Situations?
During stressful times we begin to ‘paradoxically breathe’. This means instead of breathing from the diaphragm (felt more as deep belly breathing) we begin to breathe more from the chest (where only the upper chest expands and contracts as we breathe). By only breathing from our chest we are denying ourselves the opportunity to take in double the amount of oxygen available in each breath.
Once the stressful event has ended we can often fail to end the incorrect breathing pattern. This pattern gets reinforced over time, which ultimately means the body is starved of oxygen and vital life force (prana) to the tissues in the body. This results in tight muscles, ultimately causing aches and pains, tiredness and lethargy, headaches, digestive disturbances, lower levels of fitness, premature ageing and ultimately can lead to many auto-immune conditions.
How Should I Breathe?
The key is to breathe from your diaphragm followed by your chest, and not solely from your chest alone. Breathing like this results in deeper breaths, which contain more oxygen and prana.
Generally children know how to breathe diaphragmatically like this but as we grow up and start to emotionally respond to environmental stimuli we can forget how to breathe properly. This traps us in poor breathing patterns.
To check whether you are breathing properly, watch the video here or follow the written instructions below:
Lie down on the floor and place a heavy book on your tummy just below your ribcage. Inhale and exhale through your nose if you can, otherwise through your mouth, the book should rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. If it moves very little and you just feel your chest going up and down then you may need to spend some time trying to change the way you breathe to correct this old habit.
How Do I Stop the Pattern Of Breathing Shallowly?
If you know that you are often breathing shallowly, then try to bring some awareness to this situation and alter it. It is important not to force a new breathing technique but instead to simply bring awareness to it and allow it to develop naturally. Try the following 2 minute technique to help you.
The 2 Minute Technique To Stop Shallow Breathing Patterns
- Begin each morning by opening a window
- Take 5 full long deep breaths, expanding your diaphragm, then your chest and all the way to the tip of your nose as you inhale.
- As you exhale, watch the flow of the breath leave you in the opposite direction – from nose, to chest and back to diaphragm.
- Try to let the inhalation and exhalation develop to take up to 8 counts each, i.e. try to inhale for 8 counts, and exhale for 8 counts. This may not come immediately, do not force it. Simply do what you can for now.
- Set a timer periodically throughout the day to remind you to check how you are breathing. You can do this on your phone, or if you work in front of a computer you could set a reminder in Microsoft Outlook. This trick is very helpful if you find it difficult to remember to check how you are breathing. By checking periodically throughout the day, you can begin to break old breathing patterns.
By following this short deep breathing routine every morning, within a few weeks you should begin to notice a difference in how you are breathing throughout the rest of the day.
Poor posture usually correlates with poor breathing patterns. Along with checking your breathing also check your posture. Drop your shoulders, lift your chest, allow the natural curve in the spine to be present, relax the buttocks, jaw and facial muscles and just breathe 😀