It’s time to slow down, for the sake of our cells! Americans are operating with lower lung capacities than ever before thanks to (mostly) human invented factors, among them pollution, lack of exercise, sitting for work and recreation, sitting with poor posture, and poor diet. While malefactors are on the rise, awareness of proper breathing technique is probably lower than ever- for an action that many humans perform up to 20,000 times a day, you would think that we should take it seriously. But breathing is subconscious in nature, and therefore, prone to another pitfall of human nature: our inclination toward laziness.
We are born breathing freely, but as time and age move ever onward, we seem to “unlearn” the process, forget about it, or cease to care. This means that you are capturing less oxygen and potentially expelling less CO2 than is necessary to keep your cells refreshed and your body energized. Some studies show that deskbound workers can go weeks without drawing a full breath or even using their diaphragm, the main breathing muscle, to breathe. In essence, you are using accessory muscles to draw in the bare minimum of breath required to survive, but not to thrive. Furthermore, the less we use our diaphragm, as with any muscle, the less effective it becomes.
So let’s try diaphragmatic breathing. Take a deep breath. Did your belly expand? If so, good! This means you are filling your lungs with air by contracting the diaphragm, filling the lungs from bottom to top and nourishing your cells with all the oxygen they need. Exhaling is also important: not expelling all the CO2 with each breath is what causes breathlessness. Keep breathing deeply, and exhaling fully and we think you will notice an uptick in mood and productivity. Breathing your way to better health is not as far-fetched as it may feel. It may begin with ensuring that there are no physical obstructions within your body that are preventing you from breathing effectively. From here, it is about slowing down and learning the proper technique and, in all these respects, we can help.
Dr. Chris Hayes, D.C.