Copyright 2005 David Kane
Most people become lousy at breathing. Our bodies are naturally designed to breathe properly, but we tend to override this advantage with bad breathing habits. Your shoulders should not lift. Your chest should not stiffen. Your stomach should not push out as you exhale. If you breathe in more than sixteen times a minute your breathing is too rapid and too shallow.
The rib cage and diaphragm are main parts of body involved in inhaling and exhaling. You can feel your rib cage, but you are probably unaware of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a thick layer of muscle between lungs and intestines. When you breathe in it contracts, pulling downward on chest cavity and pressing down on stomach and intestines. When you exhale it relaxes.
Do you use your diaphragm correctly when you breathe? Try this exercise to find out. Lie on your back with your right hand resting on your upper chest, and your left hand on your abdomen. Relax for a while until your breathing becomes normal then notice what your hands are doing. When you breathe in your left hand should rise and your right hand should remain fairly still.
Breathing is also important because it can produce a calming effect when we feel anxious. Deep breathing is accepted as a way to calm nerves in many situations. Even professionals use technique before stepping on stage or standing up for a speech. Try following next time you feel yourself becoming tense.
Breathe in for a count of one, and then breathe out for a count of one.
Breathe in for a count of two, and then out for a count of two.
Breathe in for a count of three, and then out for a count of three.
Continue until you are breathing in for a count of twelve, and out for a count of twelve. Keep counting at a constant rhythm. If you cannot comfortably reach twelve do not strain yourself to reach this figure. Inhale and exhale for as long as you find comfortable and do not hold your breath to complete count. During this exercise focus on how your body expands and relaxes as you breathe in and out. More oxygen will reach your brain as you do exercise, making your mind sharper and making you feel refreshed and relaxed.