The Importance of Breathing

As part of my research thesis, I studied the diaphragm muscle (primary muscle of respiration). This included different breathing patterns and their profound sequalae on health outcomes. Most people have heard of the term ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, but a lot less know the positive flow-on effects breathing in such a way has on other body systems and overall health.

Breathing well helps us relax, normalise body biochemistry, reduce muscle pain and allows re-establishment of normal posture and movement.

When any person is misusing their respiratory muscles and develops breathing pattern disorders, many negative symptoms may arise. Symptoms associated with breathing pattern disorders include but are not limited to:

  • Tingling in the fingers                    
  • Postnasal drip                               
  • Poor concentration.                    
  • Headaches                                   
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps/bloating
  • Chest pain/tightness

The simple breathing exercise that I use and teach others goes as follows:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent (this takes your abdominal muscles off tension and allows easier contraction of the diaphragm)
  1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen just under your umbilicus (belly button)
  1. Start to breathe in slowly (inspiration) using only your nose. When breathing in through your nose there is 50% more airway resistance compared with breathing through your mouth. This will automatically slow your breathing rate down, tipping your autonomic nervous system seesaw towards a more parasympathetical driven state. This is the rest and digest portion of your autonomic nervous system that promotes healing and decreases cortisol (primary stress hormone). Additionally, the hairs in your nose have an important filtration purpose, filtering out a lot of nasties in the air. Breathing through your nose will actually make you get sick less often!
  1. During inspiration try and breathe as slow as you can comfortably manage, try to get the feeling of the inhaled air pushing deep into your pelvis.
  1. When you breathe out, simply relax your abdomen. The inbuilt elasticity within your lungs contracts them inwards naturally and effortlessly, pushing air back out of your lungs.
  1. To check if you are now breathing correctly using primarily your diaphragm, look at your two hands. The hand on your chest should remain relatively still throughout and the hand on your abdomen will rise and fall with each respiratory cycle.