You'd probably snort and skip reading this article. Or you're probably wondering if there's another way of breathing aside from taking in air and expelling that again either through the nostrils or the mouth. After all, breathing comes to us so naturally that most of the time, we are unaware of doing it. It's some form of natural reflex for survival, something we hardly have any need for tips on how to do it. Remember how an infant gasps for air for the first time and gives that shrill cry? We knew it the moment we were born, right?
- Sit down in your natural, relaxed posture.
- Put one hand on your tummy.
- Now take a few normal breaths, the way you are used to. If you want to take a few deep breaths, be my guest. That would make it more obvious for the next step.
- Observe: When does your belly expand and contract? Hold that answer for a while.
If you happen to have an infant lying around somewhere in your household or your neighbor's house, try and see how the baby breathes, particularly if he or she is asleep. If both you and the infant have your bellies expanding upon inhaling and contracting once you exhale, then congratulate yourself. You're still breathing the right way at your present age. If however you're doing the opposite, as most adults are, don't be too hard on yourself. A lot of us are chest breathers or what they call thoracic breathers. Somewhere between infancy and our present age, we've morphed into that. Normally, we all started as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathers.
If we knew instinctively how to breathe properly, how did we end up doing it the wrong way?
It could be for a lot of reasons, but one culprit is stress. Stress can cause tightening of muscles and somehow, some normal body functions try to compensate. An interesting article enumerates eight reasons why we end up with poor breathing. It says there that some actually try to suck in their abdomens to try and hide the pot bellies or have their stomachs appear flatter (seriously guilty of this). But whatever the reason, it's enough to know that chest breathing is not the proper way to breathe.
Why is chest breathing unhealthy?
Well, for one, it further increases your stress level. Try sucking in your stomach all the time and tell me it's not stressful (lol!). But seriously, take a few deep breathes right now. You find that relaxing, right? It gives you a feeling of well-being and a certain calm that promotes relaxation. Chest breathing is opposite of that. Chest breathing promotes shallow breathing and it stresses the nervous system in steady increments. Furthermore, we forget to use the diaphragm so we end up utilizing only the upper and middle part of the lungs. That action strains the lungs repeatedly.
Should I revert to diaphragmatic breathing?
My classmate in Tai ji tells me to take deep breaths at certain intervals during the day to help with my hypertension. I know deep breathing is good and relaxing, and yet I forget that, except when I am out of breath after running or doing a strenuous activity. I think there is some merit in her advise and I could start with that. I got to practice using my diaphragm for breathing again, not for singing but for better health.
To answer the question above, it's actually a personal decision you have to make for your own. As for me, I'm practicing it already since last night before I fell asleep. It takes a very conscious effort on my part but I hope to someday breathe properly the natural way. I'm going back to the basics and I feel I could benefit a lot by doing something I have ignored for quite sometime.