Did you know the average human being takes in the upwards range of 30,000 breaths a day? That is insane. What is even more crazy is the majority of us are unconsciously taking these breaths.
Here’s a challenge for you. I want you to take a deep breath right now. Start by placing your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your belly. Take a deep inhale (nose or mouth, whichever you’re most comfortable with). Which hand did you feel rise the most or if any at all? Did your traps tighten up? Your neck flexors?
Sadly enough, most of us probably felt our chest expand. We’re chest breathers. Why? Well for one, because we don’t know how to breathe properly. This isn’t a skill thats really taught. We simply breathe to sustain life so we don’t die. Secondly and most importantly, we breathe this way because it is our “fight or flight” response style of breathing. Remember the example of the sabretooth tiger chasing our good ole’ friend Grok yesterday? Although we may not have animals chasing us, we simulate the same physiological response when we stress about traffic, finances, relationships, work, etc. and it turns up in our breathing. As a population, we don’t handle stress well. We hold onto it or avoid it at all costs because its uncomfortable to deal with! Our breathing practices are a good representation of the stress we hold onto but can also be our most powerful tool to combat these stressors. So, don’t worry, helps on the way! Enter diaphragmatic breathing
This style of breathing can help down-regulate our nervous system and take us into more of a restful, relaxed state of being. Truly, in high stress environments and experiences we have to be diligent about our breath. It controls our entire nervous system and how reactive or proactive we can be in the moment. Its quite simple. Start by taking a 3-5 (or as long as you can go) second inhale through your nose. Understand that if you’re not used to this style of breathing, your diaphragmatic capacity may be quite poor. Don’t worry, like any skill, this will take practice to improve upon. While you inhale, place your hand on your belly and make sure you’re getting a response. Exhale long and slow through your mouth, but don’t resist the carbon dioxide leaving your body. Repeat this as frequently as possible throughout the day and especially during times of stress. It’s proven that 3 minutes of intra-nasal diaphragmatic breathing can down regulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This alone can help diffuse a stressful encounter, help relax your mind and body before an important presentation (or workout) and even help you drift off to sleep.
Plain and simple, your breathing needs more practice. You also need to be more conscious of your breath throughout the day. Breathing through an organ (lungs) rather than a muscle (diaphragm) decreases the total amount of oxygen you’re able to take in. Oxygen is vitality and more is better, all around. Whether you’re in the shower (cold, hopefully), sitting down to lunch, at your desk or even preparing yourself for bed, practice daily and deliberately and you’ll reap the benefits or this low hanging fruit!