Do you ever think about how you breathe? It’s a fact that most of us are breathing incorrectly. Most people breathe quite shallowly, which increases the tension in our neck and shoulder muscles. When we don’t use our diaphragm to control respiration, we breathe only into our upper chest and the lungs do not fully expand. This limits the amount of oxygen that gets to our tissues.
The major muscle that controls breathing is the diaphragm, which lies under our rib cage. When we are breathing properly, the diaphragm should lower during the inhale, allowing air to fill the lungs. When you see your abdomen rise slightly during an inhalation, this shows that the diaphragm has dropped and you are fully expanding your lungs. As you exhale, your diaphragm lifts back up and the abdomen should flatten out to resting position.
Breathing correctly and using your diaphragm has significant benefits for you, including these:
- Stress reduction – Deep breathing techniques can be found in most relaxation and meditation practices
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased tension in neck and shoulder muscles
- Improved mobility of the abdomen
- Improved digestion – Helps keep the contents of the intestines moving
Learning to breathe deeply is actually easy to do. It just takes conscious effort to remember to do it on a regular basis. To understand how it feels to breathe correctly, lay down on your back and put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. Next, take a slow breath in, and in the process try to make the hand resting on your abdomen rise. Try to limit the amount of movement in your chest area. As you slowly breathe out, the hand on your abdomen should lower. This type of breathing can feel very strange at first if you are not accustomed to it. With attention and practice, it will get easier.
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