By Olena Jacyla, RMT
Are you breathing right? Take a deep breath and notice what happens to your body. Did your chest expand and shoulders rise? Or was it your belly that was expanding?
If your chest was the first to expand when taking a deep breath, then you are breathing all wrong! You've been breathing since you were born, so you probably think you have it figured out by now, but years of stress, bad posture, and poor habits may have turned you into a chest breather. Chest breathing is not the most efficient way to get oxygen into your body and contributes to neck and should pain, anxiety and overall poor health.
So how did nature intend for you to breathe? Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, uses your primary breathing muscle called the diaphragm (located under your lungs and above your stomach). As you inhale, your belly should expand and push forward, allowing the lungs to fully expand and get the maximum amount of oxygen to energize your body. Getting enough oxygen is crucial to good health so retraining your body to breathe efficiently should be a priority on your health journey.
How can you make belly breathing natural again? Practice! You can train your diaphragm just like any other muscle. It may be difficult at first, since the muscle is weak from disuse, but if you keep up the exercises it will eventually become anunconscious habit again.
Put one hand on your belly. As you inhale, your belly should expand out into your hand. As you exhale, your belly should contract back in. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, then exhale for a count of 8. Repeat 2 more times.
Do this breathing exercise (3 breaths, 4-4-8 count, using your belly) at least 5 times a day.
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