Our breathing is one of the most powerful self-healing and self-empowering tools we have in our health arsenal. Yet, breathing tends to be neglected and missed in discussion when seeing your doctor, trainer, or even your therapist. Multiple studies reveal an increase in positive effects of your physical and mental health with just changing your breathing alone. The mental effects occur in as little as 3 days! These changes involve lowering cortisol levels (this is responsible for your “fight or flight” response), improve attention, lowering blood pressure, and improving anxiety and depression (Brown and Gerbarg, 2005a,b; Anju et al., 2015).
As a society, we tend to be chronic mouth breathers which start at times in our early childhood! This is significant to the fact that mouth breathing has been linked to poor gut health, chronic fatigue, auto immune disorders, sleep disorders, weight gain, anxiety, ADHD, and overall poor health to just name a few. When we mouth breathe, we are unable to utilize our diaphragm efficiently to improve all these aspects.
The diaphragm sits at the bottom of your rib cage and is dome shaped. This large muscle is responsible for creating negative pressure to bring air into the lungs as well as creating intra-abdominal pressure which is important for stability of the body. This is most efficient when breathing through the nose, not the mouth. When you nose breathe your nose brings in Nitric Oxcide which helps the body better absorb oxygen and allows that oxygen to absorb down to your cellular level (which it what our entire being is made up of).
So how do I breathe you may ask….
Laying on your back in a comfortable position, place your hands on the outer part of your rib cage. You are going to breathe in through your nose, feeling your rib cage expand outwards against your hands/fingers while counting to 4. Exhaling out through your nose for a 6 count as the rib cage depresses inwards. The count is important as this helps fill your diaphragm and slows down your breath to lower heart rate, blood pressure, stress, and brings more oxygen into the blood. This is to be done for 5 minutes and, personally, I do this when I am going to bed at night. Another tip to avoid night time mouth breathing is to place one piece of paper tape vertically on your lips (as long as you aren’t dealing with nasal congestion, sinus issues, or nausea/vomiting- use your common sense) to keep your mouth closed while sleeping. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your energy level each morning when waking!
Our bodies are efficient healers, sometimes it needs to be reminded on how to help heal. It’s time to address the elephant in the room.