What is the best way to breathe?
Some of you may have heard that it’s from the belly. Or perhaps you’ve heard that it’s important to breathe deeply.
The answer is, there isn’t one perfect way to breathe.
An appropriate breath pattern is generally the most efficient one. This means using the least amount of energy or muscular effort to meet the metabolic demands of the task you are performing. It means bringing in the optimal amount of oxygen to our tissues in each moment. This can vary greatly depending on what you’re doing, whether sitting on your couch streaming Netflix or hiking up a steep mountain.
Sometimes less is more!
Over-breathing, also called “chronic hyperventilation”, is actually one of the most common breath pattern disorders. It can lead to muscle tension, fatigue, and pain. Breathing in excess can begin to influence other body systems, impacting the course of disease processes. This will become clearer as we continue to explore the fascinating ways in which our breathing is connected the rest of our body’s systems.
A pain in the neck!
Changes in posture combined with long periods of sitting can also have a direct impact on how we breathe. When we sit in a slouched position, we limit the ability of our ribcage and abdomen to expand and we emphasize the use of our neck muscles for breathing.
Generally, the most efficient breathing pattern can be achieved when we position our body in a way that allows for the diaphragm to do most of the work. This means keeping the spine long with our ears, shoulders and hips stacked one over the other. Imagine a string passing through your spine from the crown of your head to the tip of your tailbone. Whether sitting, standing or lunging, your ears, shoulders and hips should attempt to fall in line with this imaginary string to allow for optimal breathing. For example, if your head comes too far forward, your ears fall out of line with the rest, which may put extra load on your neck muscles and change your breathing.
A powerful tool
Stress has been shown to directly influence our breathing pattern and can lead to over-breathing. Studies have also shown that pain or even the anticipation of pain can lead to over-breathing as well. Even our thoughts can change the way we breathe!
In the next articles we will shed light on what a powerful tool the breath can be to not only notice these changes within ourselves, but potentially help alleviate any symptoms with respect to our physical, emotional and mental health.
Here is a challenge before you read on:
- Can you notice changes in your breathing throughout the day?
- Does paying attention to the way you breathe change how you feel?
Breath can be the key to accessing our own mind and body in the most self-empowering way.
Are you ready to dive in? Stay tuned for more!
Intro : Dare to Breathe
1. The Diaphragm: Life and Breath
2. Breath: Supply and Demand
3. Breathing and Joint Mobility
4. The Diaphragm: A Web of Connection
5. Breath and Emotion
6. How Stress Can Change Our Breath
7. Breath Awareness: a Powerful Tool to Bridge the Body and Mind
8. Breath Regulation: Empower Yourself!
9. Mindfulness and Meditation: the Power of Awareness
10. Yoga: Transforming the Body and Mind
Prosko, S. (2019). Breathing and Pranayama in Pain Care. In: Pearson N, Prosko S, Sullivan M (Eds). Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain. London, Uk: Singing Dragon Publishers; pp. 140-156.