The Right Breath
You already know how to breathe, right? You do it every moment, every day, without even thinking about. Chances are, though, your breathing technique is not as healthy as you might think.
Most of us breathe too shallowly, too quickly. Our lungs and heart would greatly prefer longer, slower, deeper breaths. This is true for general health, and it is also true for managing stress. Deep breathing helps dissipate the fight-or-flight reaction so many of us experience when we’re stressed. It sends a signal to your brain to slow down, which results in hormonal and physiological changes that slow heart rate and lower blood pressure.
You might be surprised that there are lots of big books written on breathing method. That’s because proper breathing technique is crucial for everyone from athletes to people with asthma to yoga experts. But for us regular folk, there are only a few things you need to keep in mind:
- In general, inhale slowly and deeply through the nose. A healthy inhale takes about five seconds.
- In general, exhale slowly through the mouth. Empty your lungs completely. Good breathers focus more on thorough exhalation than on inhalation.
- Engage your diaphragm for good breathing. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle along the top of your abdomen that pulls your lungs down to draw in air, and then pushes your lungs up to expel carbon dioxide. With a good inhalation, your lungs puff up as your diaphragm drops. With a good exhale, your diaphragm rises. If you don’t feel this muscle moving, deepen your breaths even more.
- Work toward breathing just six or eight deep breaths per minute. Most of us breathe more than 20 times a minute.