There is nothing more natural to life than breathing. The organ system that is first to become interrupted by stress, and often unnoticed, is how we breathe. There is an optimal way to breathe and not many of us do it. This is why conscious breathing is an important exercise to do at least morning and night, if not more. By consciously deep breathing we both prevent the chronic stress response and can minimize stress related situations.
Babies breathe the best ~ not a worry, not a thought in the world with all of their needs taken care of for them. They breathe into their bellies. Their inhale is slow in comparison to their exhale. They breathe into their bellies rather than into their chests.
As we experience any kind of pressure our breath becomes shallower. Slow, conscious breathing twice daily will bring out awareness to our breath and therefore brings our attention to what brings us stress in our day. With conscious practice you practice stress management and your overall health improves.
Place your one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly. This creates a figure 8 – the symbol of infinity. Breathe in through your nose, into your belly, keeping your ribcage as still as possible for the count of 4. Your chest hand should remain more still than your belly expands. Exhale slowly through pursed lips for the count of 8 and your belly hand drops back down with the belly. This is called diaphragmatic, belly breathing compared to shallow, chest breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing decreases acidity and increases blood circulation to all of our tissues, especially our brain, creating a more resilient overall body.
Most people who breath shallow don’t realize they do until they become more conscious of it. When our pace picks up and our responsibilities become greater, we start to create a resistance to this, as this is not optimal for wellbeing. It is natural to resist this. On the other hand it is not natural to push our bodies and minds so hard without awareness of its affect on the body. Shallow breathing is stressful and puts stress on the rest of the body, which usually shows up over time as illness. Practicing deep breathing can play a major role in prevention of stress and stress related illnesses, which equates to 80% of all illnesses.
Belly breathing causes the diaphragm (the large muscle between the chest and the abdomen) to drop into belly, expanding the belly and gives the lungs more space. With more space there is a greater surface area for oxygen and carbon dioxide to exchange. This creates negative pressure within the chest which forces more air into the lungs and creates greater blood flow throughout the body.
The best outcome from practicing diaphragm breathing is to develop naturally a respiratory rate that averages 10 breaths per minute.
I encourage you to:
- Check your natural breath by counting the number of times you inhale in one minute.
- Practice belly breathing at least every morning and every night for 8 times.
- Recheck your natural breath in one week and notice if your rate lessens.
- Continue this awareness and practice as the foundation of a stress free life.
Dr. Theresa Ramsey is a practicing physician, speaker, lifestyle expert, author of the best selling book, Healing 101: A Guide to Creating the Foundation for Complete Wellness, and a weekly guest expert on Arizona’s top morning show, Your Life A to Z. Dr. Ramsey has been nominated Phoenix Magazine’s Top Doc for two years in a row and recently selected as an eHow.com health expert, as well as the 2012 Natural Choice Award winning Naturopathic Physician. As a nationally recognized speaker, she elegantly bridges the gap between Allopathic and Naturopathic medicine educating patients & physicians on the language of wellness and root causes to illness & dis-ease.