Today, believe it or not, we’re going to talk about why breathing is so important. Sorry about the stupid title to begin with.
Obviously breathing is important because it keeps you alive, but there’s a lot of components to correct breathing that actually make a tremendous impact on your overall health and performance. Today is a little public-service announcement to remind you that if you’re working with someone that says, “Hey, you need to do these breathing exercises”, that they’re really, really important.
Let’s go over just a few basic ideas about what good respiratory practices can do for you.
Number one: If we actually just look at the entire world, when people are put through … There’s a couple different questionnaires and exams, or assessments out there, what we see is that somewhere between 15 and 20% of people are actually called chronic hyperventilaters. Now, someone that is a chronic hyperventilater tends to over-breathe. They use a lot of upper chest muscles, and they breathe too much for their relative level of activity.
One of the things I’ve talked a lot in a lot of other blogs is that deep breathing is not always required; your respiration should match up with your level of activity. However, whenever we start looking at respiration in a little greater depth, there are so many different elements of good respiratory practices that can change your health. Let me start off with the basics. Obviously, breathing is vital to your brain.
Your brain is an energy hog; it utilizes 25 or so percent of all your available glucose and oxygen, so this small 3.5-pound organ uses so much of what you’re taking in during good respiration. If you are a poor breather, to some degree, you are causing alterations in brain function, so if you want a better brain, better cognitive function, better motor function, et cetera, sometimes including breathing practices in what you do can be absolutely vital.
Probably one of the reasons that we see aerobic exercise particularly talked about in the research literature in relationship to improving brain function, especially as you age. Respiration: Great for brains. Number two: When you practice good, what is called abdominal breathing periodically, because your diaphragm is like a big parachute, and it goes inverted. When I breathe in, my diaphragm pushes down into my abdomen.
We tell people good deep breathing is a form of visceral mobilization.
In other words, we get to take these little, relatively softer organs and squeeze them and move them around a little bit which, mechanically, we believe does have an impact on overall gut function, and on top of that, some of the information that is generated whenever we do breathing is actually sent back up to the brain, through a couple different pathways, so we see, in essence, some good relaxation responses because of what we’re doing with the abdominal breathing.
A third thing.
A lot of people now are talking about pelvic-floor dysfunction, pelvic-floor injury, and so particularly from accidents and other surgeries and what not, and so one of the things that we’re also seeing in research is that one of the best ways to recondition pelvic floor is actually good abdominal breathing, which seems to be more effective than a lot of traditional exercises.
Finally, once we’ve discussed all that, obviously optimizing your breathing can decrease your stress levels, change you hormonally in many different ways. We tell people, this is one of the most … It’s freely available. It’s one of the most important things that you can do. The biggest challenge is incorporating breathing practices into your day. Now, the most important thing I can tell you is that your “breathing” practice basically means that you need to breathe differently than you do habitually.
There’s lots of different things that you can practice. You can practice deep abdominal breathing, you can practice stair-step breathing, you can practice filling up on one side, filling up on the other side, diagonal breathing, filling up the lower right abdomen all the way up to the left chest.
I don’t really care in the beginning, unless we’ve assessed you, to tell you exactly what you need to do, but playing with your breath, figuring out different patterns and whatnot actually makes your brain much more aware of what’s supposed to be happening, and can be a really valuable addition.
If you know nothing about breathing exercises, look at our blog. Type in breathing exercises in the search box, and we’ll show you lots of different ways to get started on this.
The thing that I would love for you to remember and write down is that what we see, based on a lot of experience and some research literature, is that you want to be aiming for somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes of breathing practice, deliberate breathing practice per day. When you start to incorporate that much specific practice, you start to see really significant changes, and all the different functions that we’ve talked about, as well as other things.
The final thing I often talk about with our clients is that breathing, exhalation particularly, exhalation is a key component in weight loss. Most people don’t know that. They think that the fat is somehow burned. It is kind of burned, but in essence, in the metabolic processes that rid your body of fat, most of it is actually exhaled. It’s one of the reasons we get a lot of people thinking about breathing for weight loss on top of everything else.
If you have questions about any of this, please let us know. We have tons of resources, as I said on breathing. There’s lots of programs out there. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s the habitual practice of changing your habits around breathing that really make all the difference.
If you have any questions, let us know.
Otherwise, good luck.