Don't forget to Breathe!
Everyone breathes. Breathing is the process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs. Once blood has been oxygenated in the lungs it travels back to the heart and is then pumped around the body. The blood delivers its oxygen and collects the carbon dioxide, carrying it back to the lungs where it will be exhaled again. The air we breathe in contains approximately 21% oxygen and 0.04% carbon dioxide, whereas air that leaves the body contains approximately 15% oxygen and 4% carbon dioxide. Thus, the air we exhale contains 100 times more carbon dioxide and 6% less oxygen than the air we inhale. (Source: Anatomy & Physiology, Edition 5, Louise Tucker)
Luckily, we do not have to think about breathing. Our beautiful brain is sending out the right signals to our body so we don’t have to remember.
This breathing process happens automatically that we actually do forget that we breathe. Most people do not breathe properly. Our breathing becomes shallow, only taking sips of breaths, whilst we are busy doing other things. Most of us draw just the minimal air into the lungs through shallow chest breathing. Every once in a while, we take a deep breath.
Stress is the major cause for shallow breathing. Shallow breathing causes stress on your body and your wellbeing due to an increase of carbon dioxide levels in your blood, which over the long-term can be harmful. The body goes into “fight or flight” mode and raises stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Several studies have shown that stress-induced shallow breathing can cause many issues, some of them include:
- Increased stress
- Sleep disorders
- High blood pressure
- Lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain (caused by using wrong muscles when not using the diaphragm properly)
- Premature ageing
- Eating disorders/obesity
- Reduced vitality
- Weakened immune system
Unfortunately, the list goes on. So, it’s time that we focus on breathing!
The first thing you can do is remember to breathe several times a day. Notice how you sit or stand - adjust your posture, straighten your spine and take a few deep belly breaths.
Ideally, you should start your day with some breathing exercises. If you are already lucky enough and you have “mastered” meditation, make sure you include some pranayama breathing as well.
If you are new to mediation and breathing exercises, start small. Set aside five minutes in the morning after you wake up. Open the window, sit down comfortably, and breath deeply through your belly for five minutes. Focus on the breath entering through your nose to your lungs, hold it for a moment, and exhale slowly through your nose.
Steadily increase the time as you see fit to ten or fifteen mins in the morning.
I highly recommend practising pranayama breathing. Pranayama is Sanskrit and stands for controlled breathing. It’s a three-part breathing exercise where you breathe through your nose inhaling until you reach lung capacity, hold the breath, and then breath out through the back of your throat. Read my blog post to learn more about some beginner techniques.
Recommended reading: New study reveals deep breathing changes your brain: Learn More