Breathing is as natural as blinking and something we do with little thought as to why or how. On average, a person takes approximately 16 breaths per minute. That is roughly 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year, which is, in short, a lot of breaths. We also breathe in many different ways -- deep restorative breaths while we’re sleeping and shallow quick breaths when we are nervous or scared. These are only two of the dozens of different ways the human body breathes.
What if you learned you had been breathing the wrong way all along?
Some experts believe a lot can be gained if human beings literally slowed down to smell the roses. “A lot of people don’t realize they aren’t breathing properly,” Adam Prinsen, a naturopathic doctor, said in an interview. “They are breathing in a way that reflects stress — and by breathing that way, they’re actually sending a message to their nervous system that they are stressed. It’s a vicious circle.”
The key to good breathing is to breathe deeply from the stomach, something which is also called ‘belly breathing’. Prinsen recommends watching a baby sleep or your family pet. Their bellies rise and fall with each breath because they are breathing deeply and properly. It seems that we are born with the ability to breathe naturally; it’s growing up that teaches us to suck in our belly and breathe shallowly from only our lungs, throat and chest.
“We tend to take sips of a breath," Jane Boston, the co-editor of Breath in Action, said in a 2009 interview. “And hold it when we're anxious, both of which can have a ripple effect through the system. One bad habit, like shallow breathing, triggers another. Breathing incorrectly can make you more susceptible to lower back pain.”
Why we need to re-learn how to breathe
Lisa Overholt, a Toronto executive and a professional who is dedicated to regularly working out, knows the importance of breathing while exercising. In addition to keeping in shape, Lisa also enjoys boxing in her free time. Boxing is what especially brought home how important breathing is and, at the same time, how easy it can be to breathe incorrectly.
Commenting on her experience Toronto’s Lisa Overholt explained, “I was really surprised to learn I was breathing in a wrong way … And after I was taught deep breathing techniques, it was even more surprising how quickly my athletic performance improved.”
Lisa Overholt now uses deep breathing techniques not only while working out, but also throughout her day. “If I feel like I may be getting stressed with work, I take a few long, deep breaths and immediately I feel better. More importantly, my mind is clearer and more focused. I quickly feel myself centered,” Lisa Overholt added.
Proper breathing techniques can reduce stress, rejuvenate the body and foster a calming effect. Many experts advise practicing deep breathing for 20 minute intervals throughout the day. When this becomes comfortable, it’s recommend that you begin implementing deep breathing techniques into your entire day.
How to breathe correctly
First, you need to relax, either sitting or lying down will work fine. Through your nose, take in a long deep breath until you see your diaphragm (stomach) begin to rise. 10 to 15 seconds should do it, then instead of letting air out in one big gasp, slowly allow the air out through slightly parted lips.
Repeat this for up to 20 minutes to help improve mental health and well-being.
Proper breathing techniques have positive physical benefits for the whole body. Breathing the right way helps reduce acidity and makes the body more alkaline. Deep breathing also enhances blood oxygenation and can help treat insomnia.