Learning how to breathe…

Sounds silly or crazy – doesn’t everyone know how to breathe? Only on a most basic level they do – and such breathing, e.g, using only the upper part of our lungs to breathe shallowly, genuinely isn’t the most healthful way to breathe. And this is proven empirically. Most people do not breathe in a most healthful fashion.

Shallow breathing can have a negative effect on most of the functions of one’s body – inclusive of one’s sleep, mood, energy levels, and all of our neurovegetative systems, together with the quality of circulation in every cell of our bodies. Shallow breathing abbreviates the amount of oxygen and energy circulated throughout one’s body.

Learning to breathe properly every moment (not just when we are conscious of our breathing), allows us more energy, overall improved health, inclusive of greater homeostasis, relaxation, circulation, less anxiety and fear – better preparing us for the stressors that life throws at us. It can even can have a positive effect regarding our realization of happiness, self-fulfillment, and clear thinking. This breathing paradigm better promotes secretion of relaxing, pain-killing hormones. Our bodies are meant to breathe in this fashion, but in Western culture, this isn’t commonly taught or promoted – people generally aren’t aware of this way of breathing, and/or its importance. Healthful infants breathe this way naturally, but it is believed that, through the stress of life and chronic raising our shoulders, the quality of our breathing devolves and we breathe less deeply – more at our chests. In many cultures, the importance of belly breathing is taught as children move toward adulthood.

1. This all relates to what is coined as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing. Singers learn this type of breathing, as do many of those who learn ancient arts such as yoga, chi kung, and tai chi chuan. It is set forth in those arts that nothing is more healthful than learning all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing. It is said thereof, that if one practices diaphragmatic breathing at least five minutes twice per day, within 30 to 60 days, most people will have trained their central nervous systems to accept the rhythm of this type of breathing all day, every day.

There are two types of diaphragmatic breathing: Advance abdominal breathing is performed by breathing in and pushing one’s abdomen out, and breathing out and pulling one’s abdomen in – much like pretending that one’s lungs are in one’s abdomen. At first one needs to do this consciously, but with practice over time, one learns to do it unconsciously; the same goes for reverse abdominal breathing, e.g., but it is just the opposite – breathing in, pulling one’s abdomen in, and breathing out, pushing it out. It is up to each person to decide which works better for them. Albeit, it is believed that in these stressful times, more than not, people will benefit more with focusing most on the advance breathing methodology. That said, ‘one size does not fit all’. It is believed that advance breathing releases heat and reverse breathing creates heat (quite generally, the former being for stressed-out people and the latter being for people who are more lethargic in nature).

2. It is significant to breathe in and out through the nose, or in through the nose out through the mouth. We should generally not breathe in through the nose, unless one has congestion, or if one is performing highly aerobic exercise such as running (then one should breathe in through both the nose and mouth, as necessary).

In addition, the nose is designed to filter raw air, warm it if cold, make it less dry if dry, etc. It serves to filter the air, it cleans it of debris, such as viral, bacterial, fungi, and toxic matter – even just dust/dirt. Hence, it is generally more healthful to inhale by way of the nose.

3. With diaphragmatic breathing, each time one inhales, it should feel like the air is going all the way down to one’s stomach. The muscles most succinctly associated with breathing, most especially deep breathing as such and ideally, consist of the diaphragm, abdomen, chest, neck, and shoulders.

It is extremely important to learn to keep one’s shoulders relaxed with regard to this means of breathing – undue raising of the shoulders pulls on and tightens the diaphragmatic muscles, making it much more difficult and less natural to breathe deeply. Raising the shoulders also pertains to the ‘fight or flight’ response, e.g., is very much associated with fear, anxiety, and stress – and these feelings can prompt the adrenal glands to secrete hormones that make one more tense.

Diaphragmatic breathing assists one’s lungs in their function of gas exchange – the quality of which is significantly enhanced when taking place deep into the lower lungs. When breathing at the diaphragm, the diaphragm better massages the liver, stomach, and intestines – promoting an enhanced rhythmical balance/circulation. The lymphatic system has an important function with regard to the immune system – it can do its work much better when congruent with diaphragmatic breathing – most particularly in ridding the body of waste products from the bowels. Diaphragmatic breathing diminishes pressure in the chest and belly – relaxing the heart, making its work easier. It also allows the proper breathing muscles to do their job, versus other muscles having to do unnecessary work when breathing is shallow, e.g., just in the chest: as the chest becomes more relaxed as such, the neck and shoulders will have less tenseness, misalignment, and discomfort/pain.

4. True relaxation is of the upmost importance. We ALWAYS come out further ahead the more relaxed we are. The better we learn all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing, the more relaxed we are, and the more we avoid abbreviated levels of oxygen, which unto itself, makes the body and brain more stressed.

By strategically taking control of one’s breathing and making it more relaxed, it is like a positive domino effect. It is like tuning up one’s mind/body connection, therein and everything in-between. Our bodies respond in kind, prompting overall enhanced functioning. When the body and mind are relaxed, health is good, energy is high, and it becomes a more simple matter to be happy, appreciative, and loving – toward others and within/toward oneself.

5. Everything has a natural rhythm and vibration. This includes everything in our world, our universe – just like a finely-tuned clock: The seasons, earth, oceans, moon, stars, all of nature, etc. Our bodies are just the same…at best. For us, proper breathing promotes this clock to function better – inclusive of homeostasis (a healthful balance of the central nervous system), and the healthful secretion of hormones, on and on. When our bodies are tuned, they function the best – and proper breathing is a significant facet of this rhythm of true health.

— Dr. Glen Hepker

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2 thoughts on “Learning how to breathe…

  1. Hi Glen. There’s nothing silly about this post/subject. I have to repeatedly re-focus my breathing. Work-stress and its associated anxieties — I don’t mean to, but my reaction is to barely breathe. Throughout the day I have to re-center my breathing. Thanks for this. It’s lovely. Hugs!

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