Why Do We Breathe?
You breathe about 20,000 times everyday and 600-700 million times in your lifetime! That’s a lot of breaths in and out that your body does for you without you even thinking about it. Yet another reason to be grateful for our amazing bodies! We think of the purpose of breathing as mainly to bring oxygen into our body and to release carbon dioxide. But even more importantly, breathing helps to balance the pH in our body! Breathing helps to regulate our nervous system, our cardiovascular system, our digestive system, our immune system, our hormones, our mood, and so much more. When we are breathing, we have more energy, are more resilient to stressors, and have greater endurance and strength. So how do we breathe to capitalize on all these wonderous benefits?
Be Curious and Observe Your Breathe
First, take a moment to close your eyes and discover how you breathe. Don’t try to change your breathing, just observe how you typically breathe. Don’t worry about what may be the “right” way to breathe or the “wrong” way to breathe, just breathe and explore how your body breathes.
As you breathe, what draws your attention first? Do you breathe through your nose or mouth? How does your body move when you breathe? Do your shoulders lift, does your chest expand, does your belly expand, does your back expand? How far down does it feel like the air you breathe in reaches? Can you hear your breathing? What pace are you breathing at? Do you spend a longer time inhaling or exhaling or are they equal? What is your posture like? Do you notice any areas of tension in your body? How does your mind, body, and spirit feel after closing your eyes and observing your breathing?
Hopefully, you discovered something new about your breathing that you never noticed before! Write down what you noticed, so after you practice breathing for a week or two, you can go back to those notes and compare what you notice now.
Breathing for your Benefit
So how should you practice breathing? Here are my recommendations:
- Breathe intentionally for 5-10 minutes everyday in a relaxed, comfortable environment.
- Sit in an upright, yet restful posture.
- Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. Your nose moisturizes, filters, and warms the air that we breathe more efficiently than your mouth.
- Breathe into your belly and lower back. With each breath, your belly and lower back should expand outward.
- Exhalation should be equal to or longer than inhalation.
- Breathe slower. Take your time with each inhale and exhale. Try to take a moment and pause at the top of each inhale and the bottom of each exhale.
- Breathing should be silent when you practice breathing at rest. When you are in yoga or working out, it is okay to make noise, but at rest, try to not make any noise when breathing.
I encourage you to breathe for 5-10 minutes everyday as a part of your routine. Choose a time of day that works best for you, whether it’s in the morning, evening, or during the day. The more times you practice breathing in this manner, the more your body will breathe in that beneficial way without you even thinking about it!