If you don’t breathe, you don’t live.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. The number one thing ALL human beings must do every minute of every day is breathe. But has breathing become ‘too’ second nature to us?
Do we take our breath for granted? I think it’s safe to say absolutely yes, most of us do. I know I do. Since we don’t have to consciously think about our breath, it doesn’t get our full attention.
It’s like blinking. If we don’t blink, our eyes dry out and eventually they would suffer massive damage without moisturizing our eyes. Breathing is autonomous behavior like blinking. Our brain tells our diaphragm and lungs to WORK and they do, all day, every day…about 17,000 to 30,000 times to be exact. Thank God for that.
But have you ever devoted real time or effort to breathing more deeply? I know I have recently with some Yoga and it’s a huge difference from the typical subconscious breathing that I operate with most hours of the day. The deep belly breathing helps to ease my mind, reduce my stress and energizes me the rest of the day.
But what is DEEP belly breathing?
Deep belly breathing is the act of pulling as much air into your belly as you can through your nose and holding it briefly before expelling the air first from your chest and last from your belly. Inhaling through the nostrils and expanding the rib cage as your belly extends outward. This act should make some sound since you are actively breathing more deeply than usual.
Here’s how to test that you’re doing it correctly.
This can be done best by lying on the ground with one hand on your chest and one on our belly. Take in deep breaths but only allow the hand on your belly to rise and fall, not the hand on your chest. That hand should stay rather still. Keep your eyes closed. Take in air for 4-5 seconds, hold it for a few seconds before letting it out. Try hard to force out as much air as you can. Pause between breaths and repeat.
Believe it or not, most of us never completely use our lungs to full capacity. They function at about 70% or so unless we force them to work hard and expel the stale trapped air that sits deep in the bottom of our lungs.
Breathing deeply and with intent helps so many things and this is proven in ancient practices like Tai Chi, Yoga, Qi Gong and other meditation and relaxation exercises. It stills the mind, helps with clarity and focus. It also helps greatly with physical performance getting rid of “old” air and filling the body up with fresh oxygen which is vital to all physical movement.
Ideally this practice would be a daily thing for 5-10 minutes for everyone.
Just like drinking more water would benefit all people on the planet, we typically refuse what is best for us. So, consider attempting this a few times per week to begin and then slowly add on more sessions over time, that would be a great start.
Eventually you will see the tremendous value in deep belly breathing and make it a habit. You can do this anywhere, in your car (while not driving of course), at your desk, in your comfy chair at home, in bed or at the beach (my personal favorite).
Deep belly breathing seems so simple but it may be one of the most healthy and beneficial lifestyle changes you’ve ever adopted. Please give it a try, you’ll be so glad you did!