When was the last time you thought about how you breathe? I’m guessing you think more about what you eat, how you exercise, or even how you sleep. Yet, we spend more time breathing than pretty much other activity and of course, it is fundamental to being alive. But do you know how to breathe well? Until recently, I didn’t, even though I’m into meditation.
My default way of breathing is through my mouth, shallow and I often hold my breath and gasp for breath. The problem with this, and I’m not alone in breathing like this, is that it has been proven to cause numerous ailments including:
- Loss of energy. Poor breathing leads to inadequate oxygen intake. This in turns reduces energy extraction from nutrients.
- Weight gain. Less oxygen means less burning fat
- Racing and stressed mind. Your brain needs huge amounts of oxygen to function well, otherwise it gets stressed
- Weak heart. Your heart is between your lungs – erratic breathing affects your heart
- Poor sleep. Mouth breathing when sleeping leads to hyperventilation, which interrupts sleep (and can make you snore)
- Bad breath. Mouth breathing alters the bacterial population in your mouth which causes bad breath
- Poor teeth and dry tongue. Mouth breathing affects the acidity in your mouth which causes tooth decay. It also affects your jaw line.
- Infections. Your mouth allows air into your body “unfiltered” compared to your nose
So how to fix your breathing? Well there are two key things you need to do:
- Breathe through your nose. Your nose was designed to inhale and exhale air. It filters and warms the air before it gets to your lungs unlike if you breathe through your mouth. The way I’ve started to do this is to be conscious of my breathing during the day, so I try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. Most importantly, I now tape my mouth when I go to bed! When I say tape, that means a postage stamp sized piece of masking tape that I apply to my mouth. It reminds me to breathe through my nose when I sleep. It’s made a huge difference!
- Breathe through your stomach. Most of us breathe in a shallow way – our upper body rises and falls as we breath. But it is better to breathe deeply so that your stomach moves in and out. This means using your diaphragm – the muscle between your lungs/heart and your abdomen – and your pelvic muscles – the one you use hold your pee in! This takes a bit of practice, but you get used to it. It also shows how your posture is very important and how most of us office workers sit in a way that is bad for our breathing. Breathing through your stomach is also one of the reasons why statues of the Buddha often have a fat belly!
So, get tape for your mouth and watch your belly!
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