We all breathe, but other than the fact that breathing signifies we are still alive, are we aware of what constitutes to healthy breathing?
The process of breathing
Breathing consists of well-coordinated movements of certain muscles (yes, muscles), failing which we would face great difficulty drawing oxygen into our body.
The main muscle for breathing is your diaphragm, which is the dome-shaped muscle below your lungs that separates your chest from your abdomen. The diaphragm tightens when you inhale, which allows your lungs to expand.
Then your intercostal muscles take over to help create space in your chest by pulling your ribcage upward and outward during inhalation. The reverse happens when you exhale. Try it to see what this means!
Then the breathing muscles near the lungs take care of the expanding and contracting process. We mustn’t forget the airways that transport your oxygen rich air into your lungs, which include the bronchi & branches, larynx, mouth, nose (nasal cavities) and trachea.
Breathing allows your lungs and blood vessels to remove carbon dioxide and distribute oxygen to all areas of your body through an intricate maze of blood vessels. We should make effective use of our respiratory system to ensure we breathe well to our maximum capacity.
What affects our breathing and breathing rate?
Breathing rates vary with age, weight and general health. A breathing rate of 12 – 18 breaths per minute is considered normal for an adult.
Children being more excitable and more active, tend to have slightly higher breathing rates.
However, many factors can impair your breathing rate, e.g., elevated or decreased heart rate, chronic pain, stress, emotions such as anger or fear. Even poor posture can cause poor breathing, i.e., rounded shoulders with a forward head posture makes the chest muscles tighten, which limits the rib cage’s ability to expand and causes rapid, shallow breaths.
What is deep breathing?
Deep breathing or better known as abdominal or belly breathing involves the process of inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, which allows the lungs to fill up with air while the belly expands.
Deep breathing is associated to many health benefits from lowering blood pressure, to being a great stress buster.
In today’s busy, busy pace of life and mostly seated work environments, we have been conditioned to take quick, shallow breaths without realizing how this weakens our respiratory system over time.
Shallow breathing also creates tension in our upper body which may affect our posture, leading to other health problems.
Deep breathing done correctly with balanced breaths, has many benefits that we are not aware of, such as:
- it enhances core stability
- it helps improve body tolerance to high intensity exercise
- it reduces the risk of muscle fatigue by providing a constant supply of oxygen, and reduces injury
A good way to start off deep breathing is by inhaling deeply, holding to four counts, and exhaling to the same four counts.
To ensure you are deep breathing correctly, there are videos that you can follow on YouTube, and we have provided the link to one of them which explains the process very well:
Continuous practice will reinforce a correct breathing technique, which when performed together with exercise, will strengthen your respiratory muscles.
Once mastered well, you will be able to reap the many benefits of deep breathing, such as a sense of calmness, reduced stress levels, and lower blood pressure. Deep breathing also allows you build up your endurance for strenuous activities, e.g., high intensity interval training. It is also the basis for meditation and mindfulness practices.
The Covid-19 virus attacks the respiratory system. Hence, there is an important link of doing deep breathing exercises to build up our respiratory muscles now.
This article is meant as a general guideline for deep breathing, and is not to be taken as medical advice. Our readers are always advised to consult their doctor for correct medical information, especially those with breathing issues or other medical issues, before attempting any form of exercise.
21st August 19:50 2020