Many of us haven’t had a reason to be aware of our breathing. We all know we need oxygen from the air we breath and we know we inhale and tend to forget the rest. Like most systems in our bodies, they operate to optimum efficiency when balanced. Inhaling deeply is great but it’s the exhale that creates the balance. For the majority of us, our exhale is now shorter than our inhale which results in overbreathing.
Overbreathing is the common breathing pattern of today. Mostly unaware to you, this is happening about 25,000 times per day. We were born breathing deep and slow through the nose, however this pattern is influenced during our lives by factors such as stress, sitting, posture, trauma, and many diseases and conditions impact how we breathe. This type of overbreathing uses the upper chest area which adds tension to the smaller muscles around here often resulting in back, shoulder, neck and jaw pain. Breath awareness teaches you how to re-engage your primary breathing muscles to breathe slower and deeper with less effort.
With nutrition and hydration we make choices, what food we want and how much water we need. We can last months without food, days without water but only minutes without air. Even though breathing is vital to our survival not much attention has been paid to it. Breathing is considered an automatic function, a part of the autonomic nervous system and many felt it could be ignored. For thousands of years, different groups have been exploring how the breath influences the nervous system, can induce different states of mind and enhance physical ability. In recent times elite military, free divers and yogis have helped bring the importance of breathing closer to the limelight.
How you breathe is therefore a choice. If you start taking control of your breath, you influence your nervous system, balancing its oxygen and carbon dioxide needs to reduce the stress your body is under. Slow, nasal breathing ensures your nervous system understands you are safe. This allows your body to bring nourishing blood flow to organs and areas that are impacted by stress and poor breathing such as reproductive and digestive organs, and the brain. This then has a cascade of positive effects that enhance your cognitive and physical performance while also being able to bring body and mind into deeper relaxation.
If reading this does one thing it should be to take a few deeper breaths. Move away from short, shallow breaths to slow, deep, nasal breaths. 5.5 seconds inhale and 5.5 seconds exhale is the sweet spot to bring the nervous system into balance. Breathing in this pattern will allow your body and mind to be more resilient to the demands of your life.