It is one of our most basic requirements of life, and yet how many of us think about how we breathe?
Check in with yourself, honestly – without thought, do you take one second to inhale or 10? Do you pant when you exhale or does it just “flow out”? Do you inhale and then hold your breath for several seconds?
Shallow breathing triggers the sympathetic nervous system into “flight/flight” so without even knowing it you are telling your subconscious system that you under stress – even though you may not consciously feel this.
If asked to take a deep breath, observe what you do. Do your ribs expand? Does your belly change shape? Do you raise your shoulders? Chances are that you will raise your shoulders and tense the front of your neck to take a really big inhale. The diaphragm is the main breathing muscle and as it contracts it pulls the lungs downwards creating space and negative pressure for the air to flow into. However many of us use the upward movement of our shoulders to expand the lungs, 25,000 times a day this can be tiring and is often the cause of chronically fatigued and tense shoulders.
Lack of mobility within the lungs can be the result of many things, childhood illnesses, trauma such as whiplash or winding, poor digestion or simply, habit.
A very simple exercise to start to change the way you breathe is to inhale for as many seconds as you are comfortable and then with a slight pause at the top of the breath, exhale for one count longer than the inhale. It is amazing how difficult this can be so be kind to yourself and don’t make the first inhale too long! Within a few breaths you will be surprised at how much easier it becomes.
Slowing down the breath is one very simple way we can consciously “talk” to the subconscious system and change it from the sympathetic “fight/flight” to the parasympathetic “rest/digest” part of the nervous system.
Something so simple and yet has such a profound effect on our well-being!
Why not give it a try? Just breathe!