Most of us take for granted that we know how to breathe. It’s something most of us just instinctively picked up at birth. It’s automatic.
I have seen two things which make me feel that it’s necessary to write this post:
- Our breathing is not always coordinated with our movements – In Muay Thai, I often see people holding their breath or inhaling when they should be exhaling and so on, hence limiting their stamina or strength/power.
- Some with neurological disorders have issues with their breathing – Although my breathing is strong, I do have a shortness of breath that restricts me from speaking short sentences.
I have put together some research with what I’ve learned from my own training. Hopefully, this helps you!
How Breathing Works
Breathing (or ventilation) is one of the many functions our bodies do automatically without having to think about them (in most cases).
There are actually two processes at work here: ventilation (movement of a volume of gas in and out of the lungs) and respiration (the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide across a membrane either in the lungs or at the cellular level).
The entire system is known as the respiratory system and consists of the mouth, nose, nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchial tree, and lungs.
I don’t want to get overly scientific here as it’s really not necessary. Just understand that a basic understanding is needed to perhaps breathe better.
Watch this video to see how it works.
The Brain And Breathing
The cognitive processes of our brain can be divided into two categories: controlled processes and automatic processes. As I mentioned before, breathing is one of those automatic processes we just do.
Controlled processing is typically handled by the front of our brains and includes stuff we are aware of or have to think about like doing taxes, studying for a test or exercising.
Automatic processing is taken care of by the back of our brain. This is all the stuff we don’t think about generally like breathing, walking talking, swallowing. Some of the automatic processes we perform are ones we’ve performed since we were born (like breathing) while others are ones we’ve learned (walking, talking, etc.) that have become automatic.
Sometimes, however, we can consciously shift an automatic process to a controlled one simply by the act of thinking about it. For example, you may have learned how to drive when you were in your teens. At this point, you could probably drive most places and not really think about it. It’s only when you are in new surroundings that you are forced to pay more attention.
I bring up these points because sometimes we lose access to the capabilities we have as humans simply by running on autopilot.
Benefits of Breathing Properly
Why should you learn how to breathe properly anyway? I mean, beyond the basic breathing that you do.
Here are some notable benefits (of deep breathing):
- Pain relief
- Better oxygen supply
- Calms down nerves
- Relaxes muscles
- Strengthens lungs and heart
Controlling our breathing allows us to slow down. Our busy lives tend to lead us to short, shallow breaths. The good news is that we can correct this with some easy exercises. You don’t need any fancy equipment.
An easy first step is to focus on your breathing. Ideally, you would do this in a quiet place and a comfortable position, but you can do this anywhere and at any time. Breathe in slowly through your nose, fill up your lungs and exhale slowly.
When you’ve got that down, add some regular relaxation-response activity into your day. This may include one or all of the following:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong
- Repetitive prayer
- Guided imagery
There is one other exercise I should recommend. It isn’t a breathing exercise. It isn’t really an exercise at all as much as a mindset. And the mindset is only developed through consistent, small improvements. I don’t say this lightly:
SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE!
I know you probably have a lot to do. And I know that there is likely a lot of fear surrounding all the stuff you think you have to do. You can probably finish this sentence: “I have to do this or else…”
I need you to step back. Decide what it is that you must do. I know you can clear off most of what you do now by delegating it out, delaying it, or dropping it entirely. It’s easier said than done, though. And I’m only just getting started myself. I encourage you to take a few minutes each day to write down your thoughts, hopes, dreams, and worries. Do this consistently and you’ll start to notice that some of the things you thought you had to do are sometimes nothing more than thoughts.
Before you start clearing-cutting tasks from your life, get clear on your purpose. I would start here. It’s a quick, simple read that helped me to clarify my vision.
I really hope this article helps you see how you can empower yourself by breathing better. Click Here To Subscribe Now!