Breathing is super important because we use it to create energy for our body. We can survive over 3 weeks without food and a few days without water. But do you know what happens when your brain is deprived of oxygen? You DIE between 4 to 6 minutes. Breathing is life itself. But even with its importance, our fast-paced world somehow made us neglect it.
So how do you correct your breathing? You can correct it by making each breath as deep as you can. As you take deep breaths, your lungs take in more air for your body to absorb. Sounds pretty simple, right?
I’ve identified 6 breathing bad habits and how to correct them. You can use this knowledge to deepen your breath and make your respiratory system stronger.
1. Weak Inhalation
It is vital for your body to have a rich supply of oxygen but many of us neglect it. If your mind is always busy and chaotic, then I won’t be surprised if you regularly experience shortness of breath. Studies show that people with depression and anxiety experience it as if they are suffocating for air.
This problem happens if you are not able to maximize your inhale duration.
It is very simple to increase your oxygen level. You can do it without paying for expensive medical care. Just follow the guidelines below:
- Take a break and prepare your smartphone or stopwatch (timer)
- Go to a location with many plants (quality oxygen source)
- Time how many seconds you inhale air.
- Time your inhalation again but with the intention of increasing its duration.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you can inhale between 5 to 8 seconds.
This simple inhalation exercise prepares your body for deep breathing. And if you have problems reaching the 5 second mark, then you just need to keep practicing it. There are no shortcuts.
“There are no shortcuts. Just keep doing breathing exercises.”
Doing breathing exercises is just like going to the gym. You are training your diaphragm and other muscles responsible for breathing. If you haven’t done any kind of lifting before, then you can’t expect to instantly deadlift a 100kg barbell, right? 😛
2. Body is Too Tense
You might not notice it but simple stressors in life make you tense. It could be your job, relationship or even feeling envious when you see successful people on facebook, lol. Break away from these stressors when you practice breathing exercises.
Relaxing your muscles help you inhale deeper. Your diaphragm and lungs will be able to expand and contract better. This means that the volume of air you inhale and exhale becomes significantly higher.
Add these guidelines to your breathing exercises to help you relax:
- Shake your limbs to help loosen the body and improve blood circulation.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Start by noticing which muscles in your body are tense.
- Tension often starts at your shoulders. Relax it by keeping it low and wide.
- Once you relax your shoulders, it’ll be easier for you to relax the rest of your muscles.
Always try to relax your body when you do breathing exercises. You’ll be surprised at how often you get tensed even when doing something as simple as breathing.
“Relax your body when you do breathing exercises”
I used to practice karate and because of it, my body was always tense. I found it difficult at the start to relax my body. And if you do a lot of physical activities, then you might experience the same thing. But don’t worry because you will tense less and less the more you practice conscious relaxation. 😉
3. Not Using Your Diaphragm
Try to remember the times you’ve seen babies sleep. Aside from looking peaceful and cute, you might also think that they have an unusual style of breathing.
A baby’s belly expands and contracts when breathing. This is called “belly breathing” or using your diaphragm to increase the volume of air you inhale and exhale.
I don’t exactly know why adults breath less from the diaphragm but I have a theory. My theory is that it has something to do with “self-image” and attractiveness. I mean, nobody wants their gut sticking out because it doesn’t look sexy, right? 😛
Here is what you should do to use your diaphragm for deep breathing:
- Release your thoughts about “self-image” because you don’t need it for breathing.
- Let your mind focus only on the quality of your breathing.
- When you inhale, just let your belly expand naturally.
- Inhale deeper and exaggerate the belly expansion to make your diaphragm stronger.
“Belly Breathing increases the volume of air you inhale and exhale”
This problem you’ll encounter is more mental than physical. But once you accept the fact that you need to let your diaphragm do its job, then you’ll be able to breath-in deeper.
4. Not Expanding Your Chest Enough
When you are able to get the hang of belly breathing, you’ll feel that you breathe a lot deeper now. But the interesting part is that you can still breathe deeper than that!
When you get good at belly breathing, you gain more space in your lungs for air to come in. Inhale stronger and fill that lung space with oxygen.
Add the following steps to further deepen your breathing:
- Inhale until your belly expands to its maximum.
- Just keep sucking in more air until you expand your lungs too.
- Maximize your oxygen intake by inhaling until both your belly and lungs are expanded.
- Practice this regularly until it becomes more natural to you.
If you practice this for the first time, you might feel a bit light headed due to the oxygen rush. This is a good sign because your body is absorbing more oxygen now.
“Maximize your oxygen intake by inhaling until both your belly and lungs are expanded.”
There is another bonus for practicing this. Inflating both your belly and lungs to the max creates internal pressure that aligns your spine naturally. It is like an “auto-correcting” exercise for your posture too! 🙂
5. No Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Because we often have shallow breathing, our vagus nerve is seldom stimulated.
Why do you need to stimulate your vagus nerve? The vagus nerve is heavily involved in managing your parasympathetic nervous system. It means that it helps promote calmness, relaxation and digestion. Stimulating it correctly will lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Regularly stimulating it will result to better bowel movement, urination and even boost in sexual drive.
So how do you stimulate it? Just follow the steps below:
- This step requires you get good at using BOTH your belly and chest for deep breathing.
- Inhale deeply to expand your belly and then your chest.
- Continue inhaling more until you feel the air inflate your neck as well.
- It is important that you feel the air pressure on your neck. That pressure will stimulate your vagus nerve.
“Regular Vagus Nerve stimulation equals better bowel movement, urination and even boost in sex drive”
Depending on your physical fitness, you might need more breathing practice to stimulate your vagus nerve. The key here is to always maximize your air intake. The stronger you inhale, the stronger your diaphragm and other breathing muscles become.
6. Shallow Exhalation
Exhalation is important in expelling carbon dioxide and other wastes from our body. But just like shortness of breath, we are often unaware that we exhale too quickly.
And to make it more interesting, did you know that we exhale 84% of the fats we metabolize? I was also surprised to find out that the lungs are our primary excretory organ for fat. I hope your vanity gave you some motivation to practice deep and long exhalations. 😛
“We exhale 84% of the fats we burn”
So let’s learn how to deepen our exhalation and expel more toxins from our body:
- Inhale as deep as you can. Remember that you can only exhale as much air as you inhale. Make sure that you can do deep inhales before practicing this.
- Exhale air properly by fully contracting your diaphragm. You can do this by pulling your stomach in as far as you can.
- To increase the quality of your exhale, practice slowing it down. For starters, your inhale and exhale ratio should be 1:1 (ex. 8 seconds inhale and 8 seconds exhale).
- Work your way up until you can do a 1:2 inhale to exhale ratio (ex. 6 seconds inhale and 12 seconds exhale).
Yoga masters are pretty amazing at this. They can squeeze and pull their belly in to the extreme. It’s so extreme that their torso would momentarily look like “skin and bones”.
Final Thoughts on Proper Deep Breathing
Skipping fundamental breathing exercises will just result to frustration and further anxiety. So don’t skip steps. Just apply the corrections to make your breathing deeper and reap the health benefits. 🙂
As of now, I train how to coordinate deep breathing techniques whenever I rock climb. And I was surprised with the added explosiveness to my moves from just a few sessions of advanced breathing exercises. The rich oxygen supply from deep breathing greatly helps in the production of energy. 😉