Breathing is the root of our existence and is the most natural action we do. However, breathing incorrectly can hinder our weight loss and sport performance goals.
According the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 87.3% of the population chest breathe and only 12.7% use their stomach to breathe.
When chest breathing is done, it draws minimal breath only into the top lobes of the lungs, not fully engaging the lungs, resulting in less oxygen transfer for exercise and sports and poor nutrient delivery to the body.
According to Dr. Rodger Niemi of the Renaissance Sainsologi Chiropractic Center, people with high levels of stress and anxiety tend to breathe through the chest that can results in shallow breathing. Shallow breathing through the chest disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary for a relaxed state, and intensifies your feeling of anxiety. According to the University of Missouri, shallow chest breathing and the aging process may cause a 20 percent reduction in oxygen blood levels. This limits energy levels and affects mental alertness.
Shallow breaths from the top of our chest reduce the level of carbon dioxide in our blood. This reduced level of carbon dioxide causes the arteries, including the carotid artery going to the brain, to constrict, thus reducing the flow of blood throughout the body. When this occurs, no matter how much oxygen we may breathe into our lungs, our brain and body will experience a shortage of oxygen. Common symptoms that accompany shallow breathing include: anxiety, asthma, hyperventilation, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, shock and stress.
Diaphragmatic breathing also known as abdominal breathing, belly breathing or deep breathing is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity. Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing. When you use your diaphragm to breath, your abdomen expands instead of the chest.
We all start out as belly breathers as child, but as we grow older many change their breathing pattern to chest breathing. We change to chest breathing because it’s easier and belly breathing takes extra effort.
Diaphragmatic breathing is considered by many to be a healthier and fuller way to ingest oxygen. According to American Medical Student Association, when the diaphragm is contracted, it is forced downward, causing your stomach to expand. The resultant pressure forces air into your lungs, engaging lower, middle and upper lobes.
The average resting breath rate is 12-14 times a minute.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic breathing:
Perform better in exercise and sport
Release of anxiety and stress
More focused and alert
How do you know if you are a chest or belly breather?
Lie on your back on a flat surface. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. As you breathe, see which hand raises more. If your right hand raises more, you are a chest breather. If your left hand raises more, you are an abdomen breather.
Diaphragmatic breathing technique
1. Lie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent and your head supported. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe
2. Inhale deeply through your nose while gently pushing out your abdomen. Your abdomen should be moving outward. With your abdomen extended outward, your diaphragm can now drop down, making more room for air in your lungs.
3. Exhale slowly using pursed lips while gently pushing inward and upward with your hand to help empty your lungs completely.
4. Repeat. Practice the technique in a sitting and standing position several times a day, until you are comfortable doing it anywhere. It will take some time to get use to the type of breathing again but the long term benefits out-way short term illness.