There’s More To Breathing Than You Might Think
If you start to observe how you breathe, you might be surprised at what you discover. Think about whether you breathe through your nose or mouth. Consider how your shoulders, chest, or belly move when you inhale and exhale. Do you breathe slowly or quickly? Do you find you sigh or yawn often? These are simple ways to become more aware of how you naturally breathe.
A research team based in Milan, Italy, and led by Bruno Bordoni explains how diaphragmatic breathing, (activating the diaphragm when you inhale), can impact your spinal movement, posture, muscle tension, blood circulation, digestive tract, emotional and mood stability, and the movement of fluid that bathes your brain and spinal cord. On top of this, it can also impact how you perceive pain. Your breathing can change depending on how you perceive and respond to life, circumstances, and people around you. Breathing is about more than survival. Paying attention to how we breathe can contribute to a fulfilling and healthy life.
The Beauty Of Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragm is a thin, but large muscle, that separates your abdominal cavity into two. The top cavity holds your heart and lungs. The bottom cavity hosts your liver, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, intestines, spleen, and kidneys.
When you breathe and your diaphragm is activated, it gently pulls, pushes, and moves the structures and organs like the wind on the sails of a yacht. If you think about it, this motion impacts your spine and ribs, which strongly interacts with your pelvic floor and overall body movement.
Studies show that the diaphragm can move from one up to ten centimetres vertically depending on how deep you breathe (more in men, less in women on average). This up and down movement can occur around 40 000 times per day if you are an average breather. When you think about it, while you are doing your daily tasks, your clever body is working to keep everything inside you functioning well.
Diaphragmatic breathing can be like a gentle massage on your internal organs while strengthening your structural tissues and bones. Stress, shallow breathing, and other factors can compromise this gentle rhythmic internal therapy that takes place with intentional breath work. There are some ways to improve this process, we look at that in another blog.
Below we have a closer look at some benefits of diaphragmatic, and relaxed deep breathing.
Breathing Soothes Stress And Lowers Anxiety
You might have heard that breathing can help to soothe and manage stress and anxiety. Diaphragmatic breathing has an immediate effect on your nervous system and heart rate, and breathing is a tool you always have at hand.
On top of stimulating the calming side of your nervous system, slow, deep, nasal breathing increases the oxygen availability to your brain, which can help you thrive through life’s challenges.
Improve Your Resilience
Life runs on a series of harmonious rhythms. Your heart beats at a rhythm in sync with how you breathe. Your heart rhythm adjusts with every breath you take which forms a part of your Heart Rate Variability (HRV). When you inhale your heart speeds up, and as you exhale it slows down again, creating a steady pace and rhythm.
Your HRV has a great impact on your overall health and resilience, and breathing is one of the most powerful ways to directly influence your HRV. A balanced HRV contributes to your ability to handle the challenges you may face in life, making you more resilient in the long run.
Reduce Pain And Improve Posture
How you breathe can impact your pain experience and your posture. Professor Pavel Kolar and his research team from Prague demonstrated how movement in the diaphragm can impact back pain (2012). Diaphragmatic breathers had less pain and better posture than those who had a steeper diaphragm slope and shallow breathing.
A steeper slope might sound like more movement, but because of the diaphragm`s positioning, as it contracts it flattens out and widens the lower rib cage. With more movement, the diaphragm in other words flattens out. This creates space for air in the lungs. When this movement is reduced, it can influence posture, and pain directly.
In my upcoming book, I take a closer look at how to breathe to reduce pain and improve posture, which contributes to living a fulfilling and happy life.