February 2, 2017
At first blush, the notion of having to improve the way you breathe might seem silly. After all, breathing is part of your autonomic nervous system, so you might wonder just how much control you have over a process that your body handles on its own.
As it turns out, there are definitely good ways to breathe and techniques that are not as healthy. For many people, breathing is a chest-oriented and shallow process that actually pulls the rib cage into a lifted state that impedes the function of their diaphragm. This in turn causes chronic tension that leads to poor posture and the possibility of a compressed disc.
Fortunately, practicing more mindful breathing is not difficult; once people get the hang of it, it is pretty easy to open up the chest and have deeper and healthier breathing. Check out the following tips:
As Mindful notes, one of the best ways to improve your breathing is to spend some time focusing on how you are doing it. Sit or lie down in a comfy place and breathe as you normally would and try not to change anything. You may notice that you are taking short little breaths that are not filling your chest with air. Once you know how not to breathe, it becomes easier to take steps to improve it. Learning to be more mindful of your breathing can be done in as little as five to seven minutes a day. Get into a comfortable position and start to focus on your body and your breathing. Notice how the air feels as you are drawing it into your lungs, if your abdomen rises and falls and if the breaths are more in your nose. If it is hard to pay attention to your breathing for minutes at a stretch, that’s okay — simply say a word to yourself like “focus” and try to redirect your thoughts back to the simple act of breathing in and out.
In the event that you are feeling stressed or anxious, learning to calm yourself through your breathing can be extremely useful. Start by inhaling deeply through your nostrils — try to breathe in for at least three seconds, and then hold your breath for about two seconds before exhaling through your mouth. These deep breaths, along with focusing on how you are breathing instead of whatever is bothering you, can help distract you and allow you to relax.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at work — and this is definitely true for many of us — you might find that “seated fingertip breathing” is easy to incorporate into your day. You can either sit in your usual office chair, especially if your desk is in an office or a more private area, or if you are at home, you can use a stool or exercise ball. Place your hands at the center of your chest, close your eyes and inhale while gently pushing your fingers into each other one by one, starting with your pinkies. Count to five as you inhale and touch your fingers together and do the same with your fingers while exhaling. Count to five before inhaling again, touching your fingers together as you go. As you do this breathing exercise, focus on your rib cage and make your inhaled breaths expand your rib cage as much as you can. As you exhale, try to make your rib cage drop down to your waist. Throughout this entire breathing exercise, keep your feet on the floor with your toes pointed forward and your shoulders straight — slouching can make this less effective. In addition to helping to keep you centered and more mindful of how you are breathing, the seated fingertip breathing exercise will help improve your posture while sitting and also give you a short meditative session. Try to do this exercise for 10 breaths, and with each exhale, attempt to completely empty your lungs of air.
Thanks to some innovative apps like Spire, you can stay connected with your body and breathing all day long, even when you are at your busiest. The Spire app can be downloaded onto your smartphone from the Apple Store or Google Play — if you are in the market for a new and state-of-the-art smartphone that can easily store and handle this great app, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus is a terrific option. The Spire app keeps tabs on your breathing and will vibrate when it notices that you have been breathing in a tense way for several minutes. This vibration will serve as a gentle reminder to breathe deeply. The app also includes a library of guided meditations that can also help you to breathe more mindfully and feel a greater sense of calm.