Why Breathing?!

And well, why not!? It seems like a good starting point for living…

But what about deep breathing? What about breathing deeply?

It seems like we all know that the breath is essential for life, but how many of us are connected to our breath as if our life depended on it…? Or as if the quality of our life depended on it.

Now, of course breathing’s automatic… Of course it is, but the remarkable thing is that we have the ability to override our breath consciously. As in, go on – take a deep breath in!

Where are you breathing?

And where you do ‘fill your lungs’? (It’s not a facetious question either…) Are you expanding your chest when you breathe in or does your belly expand? When you breathe in, that is…

If, when we stop to register, we find that we’re usually breathing into our upper chest, this means that at some point along the way we’ve overridden our natural impulse to breathe into our abdomen. And we’ve done this as a response to stress.

If we’re upper chest breathing habitually, it means that we’re stuck in a stress response, generally speaking as a function of dealing with the stress-based set-up of our modern lives… and it’s only exacerbating the symptoms that we’re collectively experiencing –

High blood pressure, anxiety, digestive problems, depression, poor sleep.

A number of insidious, potentially low-grade, although potentially life-altering symptoms – all related, and all incredibly linked to the breath. Who was checking how you were breathing before putting you on anti-depressants? Or blood pressure tablets, or sleeping pills…?

Upper chest breathing has a different physiological mapping than abdominal breathing (‘diaphragmatic breathing’ or the ‘belly breath’, as I like to call it. We’re not really breathing into the belly in abdominal breathing…but as we appropriately and fully engage the respiratory diaphragm to deepen our breath, our abdominal contents have to move out of the way to facilitate the expanded lungs! And so they get pushed ‘down and out’).

Upper chest breathing results in a shorter, more shallow breath – one in which increases the composition of carbon dioxide in the blood which has the effect of putting you in your fight or flight mode. And you may well feel in fight mode the moment that you hit the commuter traffic and battle through your day…

But this isn’t helping your all-round health…

Diaphragmatic breathing induces a deeper, more full breath. Its effect is to put us into a calmer state where digestion can appropriately take place, where our body is in its restful state.

We are, of course, supposed to access both types of breathing – we should be switching between them naturally; one for exertion of high demand activity and the other for our reposeful, replenishing time. Not stuck in one mode, regardless.

 

Being in balance

We are supposed to have balance in our lives, in our breath and consequently in our health…

But when we’re in a chronically tense state – when the lower half of our body: our pelvic region, our abdominals and our diaphragm – are lacking the freedom that they require, the breath will be affected. The breath and its knock-on effects…

And there are more knock-on effects when we’re not breathing wholly – various musculoskeletal issues (think ‘tight shoulders’ and a perennially sore neck, issues in the hips and even as remote as shin splints!), brain fog, a decreased tolerance to pain.

But when we’re constantly on the go, bombarded with stimulus from all directions at all hours of the day and lacking in contact with the ground and the earth, and separated from nature’s inherent calming nature – it’s hardly a surprise that the breath has gone out of the window…

When we’re spending our lives in the stressed-out upper chest breathing that we’re puffing out as a massive reaction to the stress-based set-up of our lives. It’s hardly a surprise that the breath has gone out of the window…

Re-instate belly breathing into your life and all sorts of positive shifts can start to take place. Learn to further control and have the ability to reduce your heart rate and boost your immune not just in your fingertips, but rather in your very next breath.

And so why breathing? Well, because the breath is where the magic happens…