Peter is a specialist in quickly resolving both chronic and acute pain and empowering lifestyle change to improve performance levels both for sport and life in general. For information about his work, visit here.
Breathing is the most important mechanism to support life because every cell in your body requires a regular supply of Oxygen for it’s proper function. We can survive for approximately three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without Oxygen.
We breathe on average over 25,000 times per day and so it is pretty important that we do this correctly. Because it is so crucial to our survival, the body will sacrifice the proper function of other systems in order to maintain the function of breathing, often resulting in pain and numerous other issues of poor health.
The three most common faulty breathing patterns are
- inverted or chest breathing
- mouth breathing
- chronic breath holding
Inverted breathing occurs when the abdomen is tightened rather than relaxed on inhalation. As a result the diaphragm is not utilised correctly and tension is built up in the overworked muscles around the neck, shoulders and chest.
Proper diaphragmatic breathing is essential for joint, organ and hormonal health and helps to maintain mobility in the ribcage and spine whilst massaging all of the internal organs thereby promoting better circulation, digestion and detoxification. This also improves energy levels, reducing the need for sugar, coffee and other stimulants.
Breathing predominantly through the mouth occurs when breathing through the nose is less easy and in times of stress. This leads to forward head posture, which further compromises breathing function and can result in pain in the neck as well as elsewhere in the body.
Nasal breathing properly filters and cleans the air coming in and stimulates the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which has a calming effect on the body, promoting growth and repair. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, elevates stress hormones and suppresses the immune system.
If you can’t breathe easily through your nose then you may have food allergies or intolerances, or be eating certain foods too frequently. The most common culprits are sugar, dairy and gluten containing grains, although we will discuss this further in future posts.
Chronic breath holding is associated with the stress and in particular the fear of failure or being judged by others, which stops us from moving forward and reaching our full potential.
If you are waiting for your life to change …… stop waiting and take control of your life …… don’t hold your breath!
The following two exercises will help you improve your breathing which in turn will also improve your physical, mental and emotional health and control fear.
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
Use a finger to close one nostril. Take a slow relaxed natural breath in for 5 seconds and then out for 5 seconds through the open nostril, alternating nostrils after each complete breath for a total of about 3 minutes.
Amongst many other benefits this exercise balances the left and right sides of the brain, improving mental clarity and calming the mind and is useful if you are having difficulty getting to sleep.
Lie on your back on the floor with your eyes closed and place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your upper chest. Take a slow relaxed breath in through your nose ensuring that only the hand on your belly moves for the first two thirds of the breath.
Complete the inhalation by allowing your chest to rise once your belly is fully expanded before visualising breathing out any negative emotions as you allow the air to escape naturally through your nose or mouth. Perform this exercise for at least 3 minutes as a meditation before going to bed.