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Are you breathing properly?

Author: David Kane
Published: Jul 25 2005Copyright 2005 David Kane Most people become lousy at breathing. Our bodies are naturally designed to breathe properly, but we tend to override this advantage with bad breathing habits. Your shoulders should not lift. Your chest should not stiffen. Your stomach should not push out as you exhale. If you breathe in more than sixteen times a minute your breathing is too rapid and too shallow. The rib cage and the diaphragm are the main parts of the body involved in inhaling and exhaling. You can feel your rib cage, but you are probably unaware of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a thick layer of muscle between the lungs and the intestines. When you breathe in it contracts, pulling downward on the chest cavity and pressing down on the stomach and intestines. When you exhale it relaxes. Do you use your diaphragm correctly when you breathe? Try this exercise to find out. Lie on your back with your right hand resting on your upper chest, and your left hand on your abdomen. Relax for a while until your breathing becomes normal then notice what your hands are doing. When you breathe in your left hand should rise and your right hand should remain fairly still. Breathing is also important because it can produce a calming effect when we feel anxious. Deep breathing is accepted as a way to calm nerves in many situations. Even professionals use the technique before stepping on stage or standing up for a speech. Try the following next time you feel yourself becoming tense. Breathe in for a count of one, and then breathe out for a count of one. Breathe in for a count of two, and then out for a count of two. Breathe in for a count of three, and then out for a count of three. Continue until you are breathing in for a count of twelve, and out for a count of twelve. Keep the counting at a constant rhythm. If you cannot comfortably reach twelve do not strain yourself to reach this figure. Inhale and exhale for as long as you find comfortable and do not hold your breath to complete the count. During this exercise focus on how your body expands and relaxes as you breathe in and out. More oxygen will reach your brain as you do the exercise, making your mind sharper and making you feel refreshed and relaxed. Most of us could improve our breathing but our tendency to breathe too rapidly and too shallow becomes exaggerated when a person suffers an asthma attack. If you suffer from asthma try to resist the urge to gasp for breath during an attack, and focus on remaining calm and breathing out as fully as you can. Your inhale will follow naturally. Also concentrate on breathing slowly. This is much easier to do if you practiced when you were not having an attack. Try the following exercises when you are feeling well. If you are healthy they will improve your breathing technique. If you suffer from asthma they will help you exhale correctly during an asthma attack. 1. Hum as you exhale slowly, trying to prolong the breath without straining. Then repeat, but this time make a buzzing sound. Notice when the sound changes and when you become breathless. Stop breathing for a moment then breathe in gently. If you need to gasp for breath you are trying too hard. 2. Breathe in, purse your lips then breathe out in a series of little puffs. Work against the pressure of your lips and cheeks, contracting the abdomen not the chest as you blow. 3. Blow out an imaginary candle. Again your abdomen not your chest should contract as you blow. Your attempts to blow out the candle should be fairly quiet. You should be breathing in naturally at the end of the blow. Repeat as many times as is comfortable but stop if you begin to feel breathless. We take over ten thousand breaths a day, drawing in about half a liter of air with each one. You can improve this essential act with just a few simple exercises. Try the above and learn to breathe properly. David Kane is the author of ?101 Top Tips for Asthma Relief?, which gives more ways to control asthma. This and other resources designed to help asthma sufferers monitor and control their condition are available at This article is reprinted with permission from

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