The very existence of our physical body in the environment requires several “interactions” and “exchanges”.
Breathing is one of the most important and vital functions of the body. It is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the body through breathing.
In this article I highlihted a few of the most important parts of the breathing process that happens in our body.
It starts when we inhale through our nose. Air moves through the nasal passages, it is warmed and humidified before it goes into the lungs. The nose contains Nitric Oxide (NO). NO provides a first-line defense against micro-organisams through its antiviral and antimicrobial activity. So it sterilizes air and opens up the airways.
CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)
Optimal amounts of carbon dioxide facilitates the release of oxygen from the blood to each cell of the body. When carbon dioxide is lost, all cells (different types in different people and to a different degree) will suffer a lack of oxygen.
Hyperventilation is chronic overbreathing in excess of metabolic requirements, which leads to symptomatic loss of carbon dioxide and activates the body’s defense mechanisms. It can be caused by stress, environment, diet, overeating. Overeating itself leads to hyperventilation. A lack of carbon dioxide in turn slows down the synthesis of vital proteins, and so makes us eat even more.
Chest breathing vs. Diaphragmatic breathing
When breathing using our diaphragm our lungs open and stretch more.
When using just our chest, only the upper part of the lungs gets most of the air.
In Diaphragmatic breathing or stomach breathing blood flow is better since its circulating from mid section of body to the top of the lungs. 50-60 lymph nodes are located under the diaphragm. 24 hr movement of the diaphragm pumps toxins out of the lymphatic nodes.
Now this “stomach or diaphragmatic “breathing is the most efficient and most effective way of breathing, but why don’t we breath like this? Stress, lifestyle, not being aware of it, not knowing about it, etc… has a huge part in it. It is proven that adding oxygen to our bodies helps the healing process, improves our skin (oxygen facials!), and gives us more energy. It should be the number one topic on all wellness sites. So I started exploring and practicing this way or breathing and it makes sense. I realized that over the years of my training and Pilates practice the most common way of breathing is chest breathing (“Pull your stomach in, open your lungs” “Take a deep breath..”). And I am not saying it’s wrong, it’s just not the most efficient way of breathing.
It takes time and practice to change the way you breathe, but it is doable and it is worth it. I find that is easier to practice it when in stillness. Just lay down on your back and place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Now the key is that you breathe normal and very calm. No deep breaths. Notice if your chest is only lifting up or does your stomach lift as well? Make sure when you inhale that the stomach lifts every time. That means that your diaphragm is moving up and down and helping oxygen circulate throughout the whole body. That is the goal.
Now this is easy to practice in stillness, but how to practice this breathing while moving or doing things (walking, exercising, talking, driving a car, etc). Take small steps. I took a yoga class (hot yoga) the other day and I was only breathing throughout my nose. It was challenging and hard during some movements but I felt more relaxed throughout my class. My flow was better. My hour of body movement was more effective.
I will continue exploring and practicing this breathing while moving my body. I am working on creating beginner movements that will be easily incorporated in diaphragmatic breathing and will also bring awareness of it.
Stay tuned…..and breathe