Proper Breathing Mechanics
Have you ever paid attention to how you breathe? Having a proper regulated breathing pattern is what regulates and stimulate our own good health and longevity. More importantly, having a better understanding of our breathing pattern can also help us respond better to stressful situations.
One of the best examples of proper diaphragm breathing is seen in a newborn baby - their abdomen and rib cage expand and contract as they breathe in and out. Most of us just take breathing for granted, but we must understand that breathing is a vital function which regulates and stimulates our own good health and longevity.
In identifying many clients with breathing dysfunctions, I have come to the conclusion that many of us do not breathe properly or are even aware of our breathing habits. When we become inefficient in our breathing, the diaphragm (the principle muscle in breathing) can become restrictive and this can lead to increased tension around the abdomen, ribs, neck and back.
Irregular breathing over a long period of time can lead to many health concerns such as:
- low back, mid back or neck pain and/or stiffness
- digestive issues such as IBS, acid reflux, hiatal hernias, stomach cramps, etc.
- respiratory concerns such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, etc.
- increased neurological stress and hypertension
- increased muscular fatigue
- decrease in overall endurance and energy levels
What Causes Irregular Breathing?
There are many things that can lead to breathing irregularities, but one of the most common triggers is chronic stress. Usually when the body is under stress, it triggers a series of sympathetic (“fight or flight”) responses ranging from increased heart rate, muscle tone, blood pressure as well as breathing. This elevated state maintains until the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) system returns the body to its usual resting state.
This physiological response is needed to help us face dangers and/or threats, but this response is not good when it occurs because of anxiety or when dealing with challenges in life such as workplace pressures, relationship issues, financial burdens, etc. Being in a chronic hyper-aroused stated can lead to irregular breathing most referred to as over-breathing.
How Can I Improve My Breathing?
This is where paying attention to our breathing becomes important. By being aware of our breathing, we can consciously regulate our breathing back to a normal pattern. Many people may feel that they have little sensory awareness of their breathing, but proper diaphragm breathing can be achieved through practice,
One simple exercise to improve your breathing is called Box Breathing, which is a simple technique that one can do anywhere. Here are the steps:
- Sit with your back supported in a comfortable chair and feet flat on the floor.
- With eyes closed, focus on breathing in through your nose (while counting to four) – slowly feeling the air enter in their lungs.
- Hold your breathing for a slow four count, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth for another four seconds.
- Wait four seconds and then repeat the cycle again 3-4 times.
This exercise is best to be practiced for 3-4 minutes, or until calm returns. If the exercise is a bit challenging at first, then one can try counting to three instead of four. For those that are mastering the technique, they may choose to increase the box count to five or six.
Breath control work is not easy but can be done through patience and consistent practice. However, the best way to become more aware of your breathing and to ensure that your breathing mechanics are correct is through a proper assessment.
Along with an assessments and breathing exercises, we also offer breathing tools that can help reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure and improve your sleep, athletic performance, and overall wellness by focusing on your breath!
Book an Athletic Therapy Assessment with Jason in Aurora for your breathing assessment!
About the author: Jason Varghese is one of our senior team members, who has been working with Honsberger Physio for over 18 years. He is a Certified Athletic Therapist and Certified Kinesiologist who believes in empowering his clients using a wholistic and proactive approach, focusing on the root sources behind a problem to create sustainable change and optimal performance.