How to breathe life into your body
From sport to singing, sleep problems to stress, better breathing can change your life, says Maria Fitzpatrick.
It is our life force, so it’s no wonder “a breath of fresh air” has come to mean relief. But are we harnessing it the way we were designed to?
Breathing “properly” and to our full potential is not only good for our overall wellbeing, it’s increasingly seen as having a key role in alleviating all sorts of modern ailments, from anxiety to exhaustion.
Increased awareness and control over our breathing mechanism, and using our lungs to their full capacity, can lead to all sorts of benefits – from pain and stress relief to improved energy levels, enhanced athletic performance and singing ability, and even gaining control over a stutter.
HOW TO BREATHE
Many of us have got into the habit of “shallow breathing” – caused by a hurried lifestyle, stress, poor posture and lack of physical activity. Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes referred to as deep breathing or abdominal breathing, means inhaling deep into the lungs by flexing the diaphragm (rather than shallowly, using just the upper rib cage); it expands the abdomen rather than the chest. Many health and fitness experts believe it is a healthier, more efficient way to breathe, lengthening and deepening our breaths, increasing oxygen levels in the blood, raising energy in the body, relaxing intestinal muscles, and creating a sense of relaxation as the heart rate, cortisol (the stress hormone) and blood carbon dioxide levels drop.