Breathing correctly is crucial to your body’s function and metabolism, and it never ceases to amaze me how few people actually breathe correctly. Poor breathing habits create an imbalance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood leading to symptoms that can be quite debilitating.
These range from dizziness or light headed, shortness of breath or the feeling that you are unable to get a full satisfying breath, to head aches, anxiety and panic attacks. Poor breathing is manifests due to the shallowness of our breathing technique. Instead of a full volume of air being inhaled and exhaled there is minimal air exchange. This is commonly represented by a fast shallow breath, using only the upper chest and is commonly called Hyperventilation Syndrome.
There are two anatomical regions or components used to breath, The respiratory diaphragm and chest. The diaphragm is a broad muscle that separates the abdominal cavity and its contents from the chest where the lungs and the heart are. The diaphragm attaches roughly around the bottom of the rib cage and when relaxed it domes upward. When we take a breath in the diaphragm contracts, flattens down and sucks air in.
When we take a breath in the muscular diaphragm contracts, flattens down and sucks air into the lungs. When we breathe out it relaxes, domes up and air is expelled. So it has an excursion, for lots of us that degree of excursion can be small and our breathing is shallow. Chest breathing is where our rib cage expands and contracts to increase the total volume of the air exchange. Diaphragm breathing tends to be used for our every day non cardio activities, while we add chest breathing when we need more oxygen when we are doing things like fast walking, running, hard work and those kind of things. Many people shallow breath, it might be with a small diaphragm excursion and no chest breathing or it may be a little chest and no diaphragm breathing or a situation where we stop breathing altogether because we are concentrating intently on some task at hand and we suddenly get light headed, like I do some times when I am working with people. All of a sudden I feel light headed and I realise I have stopped breathing, so I breathe properly and I am saved from collapsing on to my patient. Ideally diaphragm breathing synchronised with chest breathing should be what we use in every day activity and just more of it when we need more, like during increased exertion.
The diaphragm being a muscle may need stretching so that we get a greater excursion, then with a better synchronicity with the chest breathing we will get more oxygen into our systems and feel better. Our breathing is seriously restricted by a more anterior or slouched posture, it presses the rib cage down and crowds the lungs so it ties in well with our new postural expression. When we lift and open the anterior chest our posture is better and we can breath more freely. As I have mentioned earlier stress tends to stick more when our breathing is limited. We are almost like an electrical machine and our energy flows. When we breathe the energy flows smoothly, when our breathing is minimal, halted or stopped then so is our energy. If we are going through a stressful situation, emotional, mental or physical when our energy is stopped then that tension seems to become entrenched in our bodies, when we breath we are less likely to harbour those emotional states, breathing is not just a pump for air it also seems to pump energy around our bodies. It is so noticeable when I am stretching someone that when they have stopped breathing there is no give in the muscle and when they start breathing the muscle just lets go, and when they start laughing it lets go a whole lot more.
Because these symptoms can represent many different causes, if you are experiencing them it is really important that you see your doctor about them and discuss the possibility of a breathing problem with him or her.