There Are 4 Ways to Breathe — Only One is Right

If you’re reading this, I want you to do a mini exercise. Don’t worry, it won’t take over 5 seconds. Please answer the below questions:

  • When you breathe in, does your chest rise?
  • Are your breaths shallow?
  • Are you breathing from your mouth?

If your answer is yes to any of the above questions, you’re breathing incorrectly. Fret not, it’s okay. Most of us today breathe incorrectly because we don’t pay attention to our breathing. We live in a highly stimulating environment and not paying attention to our inner self has become normalised.

But I will not go in there, I won’t tell you to meditate. Let’s leave that one for another day. I’m going to talk about what you clicked for, that there’s only one right way to breathe.

The wrong ways are the bullet points I mentioned. Let me tell you why they’re wrong, and if you catch yourself doing it you must stop.

Why do we breathe? Apart from this really amazing and recently discovered fact that it helps us live, we breathe because it gives our body oxygen. Each breath helps us oxygenate our organs, blood vessels, and make each cell of the body going.

What happens if we breathe from our chest? You put pressure on your muscles such as neck, shoulders, and chest… this is inefficient. It can cause neck ache, headaches, and can change our posture by rounding our shoulders.

What happens if your breath is shallow? Breathing shallow is a response to stress. Say when you’re put in a scary situation, your breath will shorten. Unfortunately, it’s become a habit lately. What does this mean? We have locked our body and mind into a stress-response state.

“Shallow breathing doesn’t just make stress a response, it makes stress a habit our bodies, and therefore, our minds, are locked into,” says John Luckovich, an apprentice Integrative Breathwork facilitator in Brooklyn, New York.

Effects of long-term shallow breathing are:

  • Low amount of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells that helps the body fight and defends it from illness)
  • Increased risk of acute illness because of less lymphocytes
  • Increases blood pressure and heart rate

What happens when you breathe from your mouth? Breathing from your nose can significantly improve your quality of life. As explained by Healthline, your nose produces nitric oxide, which improves your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen. It also helps transport the oxygen towards the rest of your body. Nitric oxide is also antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial. It helps the immune system to fight infections.

Breathing from your nose can significantly improve your quality of life.

What is the right way to breathe?The right way to breathe is by breathing deep breaths through your nose and from your belly.

Let’s do a quick exercise:

  • Put your hand on your tummy.
  • As you breathe in from your nose, expand your tummy out.
  • As you breathe out, breathe out slowly and contract your tummy.

The exhales should be as long (if not longer) than inhales. This is because exhaling helps your body get rid of carbon dioxide.

Now I told you I won’t talk about meditation. But if you want, introducing meditation in your routine will help you breathe well and also be aware, so you can catch yourself when you breathe wrong during the day.

If not, maybe you can check on your breathing pattern every hour or so you can identify if you’re breathing incorrectly and jump right back in. It will take time and practice, so be patient because the benefits are incredibly good for your mental and physical health.

Also published on Medium.

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