Breathe in!!!.. And then, breathe out!
Sounds pretty simple.. isn’t it !? But did you know almost all of us do not breathe in and breathe out the right way!?
Did you know that a normal human being breathes in and out nearly 8 – 15 times in a minute? But, what is the right way of breathing in and breathing out!?
Two types of breathing
There are two types of breathing that we can do. – chest breathing and the abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing!
Chest breathing is characterised by the upward and downward movement of chest, almost at a rapid pace. This usually happens as part of the sympathetic nervous system, when we are stressed, angry, or frightened, that requires a rapid heart rate, higher blood pressure etc to increase the blood flow to muscles as we get into the flight or fight mode.
To put it very simple – chest breathing is mostly about stress.
Abdominal Breathing ( Diaphragmatic Breathing)
The second type of breathing is Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing which is part of our parasympathetic system. In this type of breathing, you breathe by engaging the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the chest that separates the chest from the abdomen. When we breathe in air, the diaphragm moves down, that creates a vacuum effect that pulls in air to the lungs thus making our lungs to expand. As the diaphragm moves down, it also pushes the abdominal wall out.
As we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and pushes the air out of the lungs and the abdominal wall flattens!
In short, during this kind of breathing, your abdomen comes out as you breathe in and the abdomen goes in as you breathe out. You are also engaging and filling the entire lungs with air. Unlike in chest breathing where the lower portion of the lung, nearly 1/3rd of it, is not expanded or engaged.
As mentioned earlier, abdominal breathing of diaphragmatic breathing is characteristic of our parasympathetic system which is part of bringing the over-stressed body into calm and relaxing position, This kind of diaphragm breathing is what we do when we sleep or when our body is resting and is at peace!
We are all born with the knowledge of how to fully engage the diaphragm when we breathe..however, as we grow old, somehow we catch up on chest breathing and forgets to engage the diaphragm while breathing. We end up not using the lungs fully, especially the bottom one-3rd of lungs thereby losing some of its elasticity.
I have also seen many many people getting into the habits of “tucking and sucking in” the stomach to now shot that small belly.. but when you do that, you will end up doing the less satisfying and shallow chest breathing instead of the filling and calming diaphragm breathing.. and slowly ends up increasing the bp, heart rate and sometimes even ends up in anxiety.
Breathing to reduce anxiety & depression
When you breathe normally, take deep breathe and let the diaphragm push down the abdomen and let the abdomen wall come out! This reduces the heart rate, blood pressure and relaxes your body and mind. Meditation and other practices that make you aware of the breath is essentially putting you into diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing thereby reducing the anxiety and even depression to some extend.
Diaphragmatic breathing is especially beneficial for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, asthma etc, as it strengthens the diaphragm, which in turn improves this condition.
Besides, such a healthy movement of the diaphragm is said to simulate a nerve called the Vagus nerve which improves the heart health and digestion and also reduces the stress and anxiety.
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