Change Your Breathing, Transform Your Health

Are you aware of how you breathe? Breathing well will contribute greatly to your health and longevity, but it is an acquired skill. You may be surprised by what is possible by improving how you breathe.

Few of us breathe correctly without instruction.

Most adults today started life with a slap on the bottom, which naturally caused us to gasp and cry. We’ve been breathing that way ever since! We breathe shallowly and quickly under stress, and stress becomes a part of life for many of us when we are still children. We are also taught to be conscious of how we look, and a flat belly is fashionable if not always healthy. A stomach that is relaxed is necessary for an easy, healthy breath. Most of us don’t know how to do it.

Incorrect breathing can cause low energy, chest pain, panic attacks, and symptoms that mimic a heart attack.

When we breathe quickly and shallowly, our chest muscles get overworked. Because we are not getting adequate air with each breath, our cells don’t get the abundant oxygen they need and we can feel sluggish. We can also feel overstimulated as well, if we become anxious and breathe even more quickly and shallowly. When this condition becomes chronic, it is known as hyperventilation syndrome. Hyperventilation syndrome can cause numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, disorientation, and a feeling of doom. These are symptoms of panic as well as of a heart attack. Sometimes the solution is as simple as learning to breathe.

Learning to breathe correctly can take time and dedication, but it’s worth the effort.

If you have been breathing incorrectly all of your life, the process of learning a different way will take some dedication. The results are well worth it. With improved breathing you will feel calmer, your energy will be more consistent, neck and shoulder tension will ease, you will sleep better, and you will feel generally healthier. You may have to check in with yourself several times a day to notice your breathing. Awareness is the first step. Yoga, chi gong and tai chi all focus on re-training the breath. There are also books and CD’s available to help you learn to breathe effectively. A couple of resources I like are the book, Conscious Breathing by Gay Hendricks, and the instructional CD Breathing by Ken Cohen. Don’t be surprised if new muscles in your back and ribs complain as you learn to breathe the way nature intended. Stay with it! It will pass, and you will begin to notice that you feel consistently calmer and more energetic.

Healthy breathing is easy and comfortable, once you have learned how to do it.

Many well meaning people will tell you to “just take a deep breath”. Working hard to fill your lungs is not particularly helpful. For healthy breathing, use your nose. That’s what it’s meant for! Mouth breathing is for emergencies. When you breathe, there is a gentle expanding and releasing that occurs in the belly, as the diaphragm contracts and releases. Tight belts, restrictive clothes, and self consciousness all contribute to ineffective breathing.

I often have the opportunity to help frightened children breathe, because I work in a children’s hospital with children who are very ill and scared. Many times all I have to do is gently place my hand on the solar plexus, and the child will meet me with the breath. The effect of proper breathing on an anxious child is immediate and dramatic. Adults can get these benefits too.

Breathing correctly can be the beginning of dynamic health.

personal and professional experience

More from Elizabeth Danu:
How Massage Therapy Helps Hospital Patients
Aching, Tingling Hands Could Be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Try Something New to Get Some Sleep

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