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What kind of breather are you?

07 March 2011

Have you ever thought about how you breathe? Watch a baby breathe and you will see that their chests are relatively still and their tummies rise and fall. This is diaphragmatic breathing. But as we get older bad habits, stress and poor posture often change our pattern to chest breathing. This uses too much energy and we don't use our full lung space. We all know that oxygen is the most vital nutrient for our bodies. Poor oxygen affects all parts of the body (weight gain, high blood pressure, digestive problems, poor sleep patterns, burnout, anxiety, impaired concentration, irritability, toxin build-up, etc). As oxygen is critical to our well being, it makes sense to re-learn diaphragmatic breathing.

Do this simple exercise to test what kind of breather you are. Sit up straight or lie on your back. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Take a deep breath. If your top hand moves more than the bottom one you are a chest breather. If your bottom hand moves more, congratulations, you breathe effectively.

* Breathe through your nose

* Breathe deeply, slowly and with a regular rhythm. Ask your partner or a friend to listen to your breathing.

* During the day, stop for a few seconds, and check you are breathing through your diaphragm.

* Try to do 10 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing daily until it becomes automatic.

Be patient, you are breaking years of bad breathing habit. You may find it useful to seek help with breathing technique through yoga.

An invigorating breathing exercise - and you may want to lock yourself in the bathroom - is to take a huge breath in through the nose and then forcefully blow it out of the mouth with a grunt! Do this several times. It boosts your oxygen intake and expels carbon dioxide. Wonderful when you are feeling stressed or angry.

A gentleman in South Australia recently reached the remarkable age of 103 and he was asked the usual question, What's your secret? To which he answered, Just keep breathing. Everyone laughed, but perhaps he's nearly right and may have meant - Keep breathing correctly.