June 3, 2021
Are you Breathing right?
by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD
All of us breathe, but how many of us actually breathe to our full capacity? We breathe short and shallow which not only creates a shortage of oxygen in our body, but also fails to effectively eliminate toxins. Maintaining the right balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide is critical for cellular health. Simply inhaling is not enough! There has to be a balance between inhale-hold-exhale. Being conscious and breathing in a particular way can lead to deep relaxation, decreased pain, and improved mental state.
Breathe from your belly
Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air. It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in air flowing into your lungs.
Also called abdominal breathing, it changes the oxygenation levels in your body as well as strengthening the diaphragm. Many people feel calmer and more centered afterwards, and it may help to reduce negative emotions. Because of how abdominal breathing affects your mental state, it may be especially useful when you are stressed out, tired, frustrated, or confused.
- Sit or lie down comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor. Put one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your abdomen, just under your ribcage. Feel yourself breathing and become aware of how deeply or shallowly you are breathing.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
- Hold the breath for a count of four.
- Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
- Inhale slowly to a count of four, feeling the warmth of your breath and your abdomen rising. Try to keep your chest relatively still. Hold the breath for four, then exhale slowly, and repeat.
- Now add images to your breathing. As you inhale, imagine that the air you're breathing is spreading relaxation and calmness throughout your body.
- As you exhale, imagine that your breath is whooshing away stress and tension.
The takeaway: Five minutes is a good amount of time to affect your physiology, work on your anxiety, and inspire positivity. However, even one or two abdominal breaths can work wonders! It can help you relax, rethink, refocus, re-energize.