A Breathing Exercise: The Abdominal Breathing Technique
Too many people are coming into the Chiropractic clinic today feeling stressed about life troubles. How do you know when your in a stressed state? Especially if your just sitting quietly reading this article on your computer.
First step is you need to become aware of body. Are you lifting up your chest to breath in? Are you pulling your stomach in to breath in? Do you feel you need to take a lot of breaths causing a high breathing rate? If you answered yes to any of these then you probably are stressed. Symptoms of stress hides itself like, having high blood pressure. So most people don’t even know the effects stress is having on them physically. As I mentioned earlier, my Chiropractic patients are walking in and I can see that there bodies and minds are in a stressed state. How you are breathing is a simple way to see of your stressed. Breathing is also a way or a tool to help lower anxiety and stress levels. Today lets look at the simple abdominal breathing technique you can do today to help you breath better.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
You probably are aware that your primary muscles for breathing are not your chest muscles, but your diaphragm. So breathing by lifting your chest up and sucking your belly in are not the most efficient ways to take a healthy breath into your lungs. Asthmatic patients and people going into an anxiety attack adopt fast, chest breathing technique. This helps them use their accessory respiratory muscles like the sternocliedomastoid and upper trapezius muscles.
Physiology of Breathing
There are two phases to taking a breath, inspiration and expiration.
During inspiration your muscles between you ribs (intercostals) contract and your diaphragm muscle moves downwards towards your stomach. This should push your belly out making a bit of a beer belly or pot belly look. This is what a natural breath in should be like. So your ribs flare out and the air volume in your lungs expands causing a negative air pressure inside the lungs. Because the atmospheric pressure outside of your lungs is higher(positive air pressure) it will now flow into your lungs filling your alveoli with oxygen. So a natural, proper breath-in should cause air by moving your diaphragm.
During expiration, breathing out, your diaphragm muscle and intercostal rib muscles relax and the lungs push the air back out with the carbon dioxide.
Simple, right? So why do we struggle then to breath naturally and relaxed. You already do it when you fall asleep. look at your partner when they sleep or your child they breath by moving their stomachs in and out now by heavy chest breathing. So how do you breath from your belly?
How To Belly Breath
The Abdominal Breathing Technique is real simple. It can be difficult for some people just to co-ordinate initially but you can get used to it. You will probably have to keep reminding yourself to breath from your tummy. The habit when your stressed is to chest breath. Habits can be hard to break and need conscious attention.
So how to breath from your abdomen:
Step 1 – Lift your chest slightly to improve your posture
Step 2 – Relax your shoulder blades down & tuck your chin in slightly
Step 3 – If you want close your eyes and slowly push your stomach muscles out to create a slight pot belly or beer belly look
Step 4 – Now let your tummy relax back
Step 5 – Now breath In by pushing your abdominal muscles OUT
Step 6 – Breath OUT by pulling or letting your abdominal muscles IN
Step 7 – Repeat with slow easy breaths in & out.
Congratulations! You have now learnt how the abdominal breathing technique which is so simple, but can have a great positive effect on your stress levels and health.
Breathing correctly can help lower your brain waves from a stressed Beta brain wave stage to a more relaxed Alpha or even Theta brain wave stage. If you mediate and learn how to control your breathing for stress maybe you could be lucky to achieve what Buddhists monks did.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist, and his team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in November 2004. After studying Buddhists monks during mediation the monks could achieve the Gamma brain wave 30 times stronger than non-monks. This was particularly in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This is something called neuroplasticity which is the ability to change the function in your brain.
So take an easy breath in and enjoy your day today. Happy abdominal breathing. If you were reading this and breathing like you were stressed let me know in the comments section. Would be interesting to see how many people are stressed breathers.