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  • Breathing Exercise: For Health, Happiness & Longevity

  • LightMove

    October 12, 2021 at 3:26 am

    Like the beating of your heart, your respiratory system doesn’t need monitoring to continue on — every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day.

    Whether you think about breathing or not, it happens.

    This, in turn, leads many people to believe that they simply don’t have to think about their breathing. In this article, however, we’ll be countering this notion: Even though it’s not compulsory to give your breath much thought, when you do, amazing things can happen.

    Conscious breathing (or breathing mindfully) can transform your life. It can change the way you think and process emotions, how your muscles work, how often you get ill, your chances of developing chronic diseases, and even how smooth and shiny your hair looks.

    Surprised? Most people are. But as soon as they adopt some of the methods we’ll be outlining in this article, they become converts almost immediately.

    So, let’s get started. We’ll begin by explaining why how you breathe is so important and how exactly breathing works. From there, we’ll talk about the benefits of breathing and explain how to improve your own breathing habits with some useful tips and exercises. Finally, we’ll go over some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about better breathing.

    Breathing Basics: Why Proper Breathing Is Essential

    It may be a natural body function, but many of us take for granted the power that breath has over our entire body. Let’s learn how breathing works and why improving your breathing is essential for health, wellness, and longevity.

    How Breathing Works

    From the nervous and cardiovascular systems, right down to your body’s individual cells, deep breathing has the ability to transform and renew your health.

    Below, we’ll examine the science of breathing, in order to highlight how stimulation of these systems can bring you closer to achieving overall better health, stress reduction, and longevity.

    Digging Deep Into The Science Of Breathing

    When you engage your breath, you are activating your nervous and cardiovascular systems. With each inhale and exhale, your breath helps regulate, recover, and restore your body. The science behind deep breathing is a great reminder of how our bodies have a natural ability to be resilient.

    The Diaphragm And How It Works

    The main muscle responsible for breathing is the diaphragm. This is a dome-shaped muscle, which partitions the abdomen (below) from the thorax (above).

    When you inhale normally, the diaphragm (assisted by the intercostal muscles) contracts and flattens. This pushes on the abdomen and simultaneously causes the lower ribs to go up and out. Essentially, the ribcage rises and expands. As a result, volume increases in the abdomen and chest, and the lungs are inflated.

    During exhalation, the diaphragm returns to its resting dome-shaped position. The lungs, in turn, deflate, and air is expelled through the mouth and nose.

    The Throat Anatomy

    The science of breathing is all connected to the anatomy of the throat and lungs breathing exercises, the throat anatomy explained. This is a technical breakdown, without going into great detail but a short explanation of the different components and how breathing actually works from a scientific standpoint.

    As you can see there are a lot of different components involved when you take a breath.

    Larynx – Larynx is another name for the voice box. It consists mainly of cartilage, soft tissue, and muscles, including vocal cords, and is also the upper part of the trachea or windpipe.

    Pharynx – Pharynx is the muscle-lined space connecting the nose and mouth to the larynx. It is also the upper part of the throat.

    Nasopharynx – The Pharynx or the upper part of the throat consists of three parts and Nasopharynx in the upper part of the Pharynx

    Oropharynx – The Oropharynx is the second and middle part of the throat or Pharynx.

    Laryngopharynx – The Laryngopharynx is the third and lower part of the Pharynx.

    Hypopharynx – The hypopharynx is where the esophagus stars. More about the esophagus below.

    Pharyngeal – This is the muscle group that forms the Pharynx, the Pharyngeal group.

    Stylopharyngeus – The lateral muscle group of the Pharynx and part of the Pharyngeal muscle group.

    Trachea cartilage – Also known as the Tracheal rings. The Trachea cartilage helps support the trachea, making it flexible and able to move.

    Epiglottis – The Epiglottis is a flap that folds over the vocal cords, preventing food and liquid to enter the lungs

    Cricoid cartilage – It is a cartilage ring that supports the back of the Larynx, aka voice box.

    The esophagus – Is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach, starting at the Hypopharynx

    Hyoid bone – Has two important roles, one is to hold up the tongue but also support and hole up the Larynx that sits below it.

    Windpipe – The windpipe transports the air from your nose or mouth to the lungs with each inhale or exhale

    The Benefits of Better Breathing

    Carving out a few minutes each day for deep breathing can help you reduce stress, feel calmer, and have more energy — all good things when it comes to living a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.

    But improved diaphragmatic breathing has additional benefits as well — some of which might surprise you. From improved hair growth to better posture, breathing affects the whole body from the inside, out.

    Let’s take a look at the top benefits of deep breathing.

    Improvement of Respiratory Illness and Diseases

    Deep, slow, and mindful breathing breaks the cycle of gasping breaths and airway constriction, which are often associated with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). When taking in shallow and slow breaths through the nose, as many people commonly do throughout the day, you gradually lengthen the time between your breaths, which exacerbates this problem.

    With regular practice, the technique of deep breathing has the ability to reduce wheezing and promote calm, regulated breathing. In fact, deep breathing exercises are regularly recommended1 by leading health professionals, doctors, and researchers who work with respiratory illness sufferers.

    Pulmonary Function Test

    A Pulmonary Function Test, also known as PFT is a respiratory assessment test to measure the lung capacity in a human. Doctors do a so-called lung function test to get an accurate respiratory assessment. To perform the PFT they use a machine called spirometry. This lung function test measures lung capacity by measuring how much air you can inhale. This is done by first blocking your nose with a clip so you can’t inhale through it, then the spirometry is used, placing your mouth on the PFT, simply inhale into it. In this way, doctors are able to determine how much air you are able to inhale.

    Greater Relaxation and Sounder Sleep

    Once you start breathing deeply, you’ll notice tension release and an overall calming effect. You might even feel your heartbeat regulating and see your pulse lowering if you wear a health tracker. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, a breathing exercise for sleep is an excellent option.

    This calming effect also triggers a relaxation response, and in turn, this allows you to fall asleep faster when it’s time for bed. During your sleep, you’ll notice that you wake up less frequently. Improved oxygen in the blood also enhances the metabolism, giving you the boost of energy you’re looking for before you start your day or a workout. The body does this using the baroreceptors, which expand the arterial walls, thus controlling blood pressure but also allowing for the blood to absorb additional oxygen throughout the body.

    All of this is behind the reason why the National Sleep Foundation recommends deep breathing relaxation exercises2 to help people fall asleep when they’re restless.

    Better Posture

    It’s no secret that our daily environment doesn’t facilitate the maintenance of good posture. From all-day sitting at desk jobs and while driving, to hours spent in front of the TV or computer at night, the less our bodies are able to fight the forces of gravity and maintain a strong, stable core, the worse off our posture becomes.

    According to Judith Marcin, MD, “Over time, [a sedentary lifestyle] weakens the strength of our respiratory muscles. It also creates tension in the upper body that can alter our posture and undermine our health3″. Furthermore, when you breathe from the chest instead of the lower abdomen, it’s the muscles in your neck and shoulders that end up doing most of the work.

    It should go without saying that these muscles were not meant for this kind of work, and over time, the shoulders will round, and the head will drift forward, which strains the neck and weakens the back muscles. Shoulder and neck pain is often common when this occurs.

    But there’s good news. The action of deep breathing almost automatically corrects rounded shoulders, opens the chest muscles, and allows the rib cage to expand.

    Reduced Stress and Enhanced Mood

    The mind-body connection remains an enigma to many medical experts. Still, even scientists agree that there’s something special about the link between the mind and emotions and how you breathe.

    Notably, when we are stressed, the airways in the body become tighter, making it harder for air to travel from the mouth to the lungs. Essentially, your body has to work harder to transfer air, and you end up breathing faster, which perpetuates the problem.

    This is, of course, why they always tell people to “take a deep breath” during times of stress or when someone is nervous before a big presentation or performance. It’s not without reason. Achieving mind-body calming starts with the breath. Slow and relaxed breathing allows for more oxygen to reach your cells, and it calms the nervous system.

    Similarly, mindfulness practices like mindful yoga and meditation can help reinforce this mind-body awareness. Those who regularly practice mindful deep breathing, such as yogic breathing, report this practice4 as alleviating “anxiety, depression, everyday stress, post-traumatic stress, stress-related medical illnesses, or fight or flight response”.

    Yogic breathing is not as intimidating as you may think. It is a more advanced breathing technique that focuses on breathing awareness and retention. Whether you’re looking to balance out your nostril breathing, find a deeper mind-body connection, or feel a sense of cleansing and renewal, this practice will help you make each breath count.

    Enhanced Learning and Cognitive Performance

    A recent study published in Scientific Reports found that breathing exercises can enhance humans’ ability to retain newly learned information5. In this study, two groups of healthy humans were taught to trace a unique path in a fixed timeframe. After they learned the path, one of the groups rested for 30 minutes while the other group engaged in a breathing practice for the same duration.

    After this, both groups were tested on their abilities to recall the unique trace path that they had been taught 30 minutes prior. The results showed that “The breathing-practice group retained the motor skill strikingly better than controls, both immediately after the breathing session and also at 24hours.”

    Enhanced Physical Endurance and Performance

    Whether you partake in active sports such as soccer, basketball, or volleyball or you’re looking to increase your physical stamina strictly for athletic performance reasons, deep breathing exercises (and in particular, yogic breathing) can have a huge range of benefits.

    This was recently proven to be true6 in a study testing the effects of yogic breathing practices on the lung functions of young swimmers. The study was published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.

    Two groups of young swimmers were designated. One group was chosen randomly and taught to train in yogic breathing practices while the other group was the control. In the end, “there was a significant improvement in the YBP group as compared to the control group in maximal voluntary ventilation … forced vital capacity … and the number of strokes per breath.”

    Deep Breathing’s Effects on Balance

    In addition to improving endurance and overall athletic performance, diaphragmatic breathing has also been shown to improve balance. A recent study published in the Journal of Physical and Manipulative Psychological Therapeutics tested 13 healthy individuals7 from the University of Western states.

    Over an eight-week period, the subjects were taught a series of breathing exercises. These exercises were performed on a regular basis at home and in-clinic, and at the same time balance was assessed by the researchers using the Modified Balanced Air Scoring System and the OptoGait’s March in Place protocol.

    In the end, the “study indicated that promotion of a costal-diaphragmatic breathing pattern may be associated with improvement in balance.” This conclusion stemmed from the fact that as their associated breathing scores improved, the subjects showed a decreasing error rate in single-leg stance balancing exercises. In other words, they were able to stand and balance on one leg more easily and for longer as their deep breathing scores improved.

    Improved Hair Growth

    Did you know that it has even been shown that deep breathing exercises can help promote hair growth? When practicing deep breathing, your body delivers more oxygen to the hair follicle and stimulates more blood flow, which, in turn, helps hair grow faster and stronger.

    How To Breath Better

    The truth is, most of us don’t breathe correctly. This may have been a learned habit that we acquired because we were taught to “suck in our gut,” or it may simply be a matter of getting older. Research has shown that children tend to deep breathe deeper and slower than adults, but when exactly this change occurs is not completely known.

    Regardless of where you’re starting out, you can learn to breathe better. Here are some techniques and tips that we recommend exploring in your journey toward healthier diaphragmatic breathing. Before diving in, however, let’s go over what poor breathing looks like.

    Understanding Poor Breathing

    Poor breathing is short, shallow, and high up in the chest. Optimal breathing includes longer, deeper breaths and occurs low in the abdomen.

    To test your breathing, try this:

    Put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath as you count to three. When you do this, which hand do you feel moving the most?

    If it’s your right hand (the one on your chest), you’re breathing from your chest. If it’s your left hand (the one on your stomach), you are breathing from your abdomen. You want to do the latter— breath from your abdomen.

    When you breathe from your chest, your breaths are automatically going to be short and shallow because they’re only scooping up the air from the tops of your lungs. The bottoms of your lungs are bigger and fuller. That’s where your lungs store most of their air, and it’s where you want to gather your breath each time you inhale.

    Difficulty Breathing

    Breathing is more than just inhale and exhale. What’s important is the quality of your breathing, how you allow it in and out of your lungs how you perform your exhales and inhales, how you take that air in and out in a certain pattern and time frame.

    There are a number of different symptoms you can experience when it comes to breathing issues. Shortness of breath when under anxiety and/or stress, wheezing when breathing, heavy breathing, agonal breathing also known as labored breathing, shallow breathing, and rapid breathing. Whatever the issue is with your breathing, there is often some type of breathing treatment that can address some if not all of these issues. All you need to do is find the one that fits your needs.

    *Please note that not all problems can be solved with a certain breathing technique. If you are having difficulty breathing, agonal breathing, or abnormal breathing patterns that won’t go away, seek medical attention as soon as possible or call 911.

    You should also seek medical advice or breathing treatment if you experience any of the following issues:

    Issues While Breathing

    Chest Pain when breathing

    Back pain when breathing

    Sharp pain when breathing

    Lower back pain when breathing

    Trouble breathing after eating followed by pain

    Middle back pain when breathing

    Wheezing cough

    Feel the need to breathe but feeling that you are not able to get enough air with each inhale

    Sharp pain in breast

    Dull pain under left rib cage

    Breathing Exercises

    It is extremely important to use the correct breathing training method, the wrong method will make your breathing training meaningless.Strengthening vital capacity, learning better breathing methods, can effectively enhance physical fitness, and can also inhibit the emerge of lung diseases. OPUMP can help you to effectively complete the breathing training course, develop good breathing habits, and record your every breathing state. You can learn about your progress from training records, and better breathing performance can bring you a better physical condition.

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