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Take a deep breath in... and let it out...

Chances are that your shoulders rose, possibly up to your ears, on the inhale and then dropped to the floor on the exhale.

The dropping to the floor part, we like. The lifting the shoulders up to breathe is the part we don't.

Up until recently (in our evolution), we have been predominately "belly", or diaphragmatic breathers, where we use our diaphragm to fill our entire lungs with new oxygen for it to be transported throughout our body.

Now, 50% of adults and 90% of sick people in the modern world are "chest" breathers*

Let's find out what kind of breather you are!

Super easy test and only takes about 30 seconds.

1. Place one hand on your chest, and the other hand on your stomach, and close your eyes.

2. Breathe for 20 seconds.

3. When you're in rhythm, monitor which hand is moving the most.

If it's the top hand, you're a chest breather. Bottom hand, and you're a diaphragmatic breather!

There's no shame in this, but it is important to know and work on becoming a diaphragmatic breather.


The Three Big Problems with Chest Breathing

1. In chest breathing, we do not inflate our lungs to the fullest. So the bottom of our lungs, the most effective part of the lungs for oxygen transport, does not receive fresh oxygen. This actually presents two problems: a lack of full range of motion of the lungs which leads to poor function AND a lack of oxygen circulation at the bottom of the lungs and less oxygen for transport.

2. Chest breathing also over works the ancillary muscles- the chest, front of the shoulders, and neck. Every time you lift your shoulders, those muscles are contracting and ultimately encouraging a tight, closed posture.

In the other hand...

The Benefits of Belly Breathing

1. Belly Breathing promotes healthy lungs and a healthy diaphragm. Stretching the lungs all the way down in a deep breath is important in keeping the lungs functioning well.

2. Breathing intervention has proven that diaphragmatic breathing helps lower levels of cortisol, a hormone heavily associated with stress, suggesting that belly breathing helps relieve stress.**

3. Using the diaphragm encourages healthy digestion because the diaphragm gently massages the internal organs, like the intestines, when contracted, which can reduce abdominal pain, urgency, bloating, and constipation.***

The list is pretty long, so for the rest, i'm just going to list them;) ***

4. Promotes muscle relaxation/decreases muscle tension

5. Lowers heart rate and blood pressure

6. Strengthens immune system

7. Improves concentration

8. Increases energy, brings warmth to the hands and feet

9. Stimulates the parasympathetic (relaxation) system

10. Prevents injury

It's really no question, belly breathing is beneficial. So let's get to it.

Efficient Belly Breathing formula

2 count inhale

3 cout exhale

The 3rd count on the exhale leaves time to have almost an absence of breathing.

Breathing in different positions:

1. Laying flat on your back, legs extended, one hand on belly and one hand on chest.

2. Laying flat on your stomach, forehead resting on the backs of hands. As you inhale, belly presses into the floor and as you exhale, you draw belly button up to spine, perhaps even lifting it off the floor.

3. Sphinx pose. Still laying on your stomach but propped up on your elbows. This encourages abdominal breathing through extension<-- helps with posture!

4. Child's pose. Sitting on your heels and chest laying on knees, arms tucked back towards hips or forward (overhead) reaching out.

5. Quadruped (Hands and Knees). Maybe add the Cow that we talked about last week and pair your breathing with it.

6. Plank. Challenge your breathing in a plank. Still focus on the breathing pattern and quality- belly breathing 2 count inhale, 3 out exhale

7. Standing. See how standing can change the difficulty and access of your breathing... and practice!

Breathing and Performance

In the movement world, belly breathing also makes a tremendous difference in how you move and perform.

Lee Burton at the Perform Better Summit in Orlando, Florida this year talked about how "Poor breathing leads to poor motor control and spine stabilization."

When it comes to movement, we can use our breath to be rigid or to be relaxed.

We can create tension through our whole body with a sharp exhale. We can hold our breath to become rigid, like when we need to pick up something heavy. We can take a diaphragmatic breath that releases our muscles for more mobility, like when we need to reach a little bit farther.

All of the above benefits also apply to performance.

Having sharper focus, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and more oxygen for better energy levels will undoubtedly aid in performance.

Ok so today was a bit much, but a lot of good stuff here.

Find out if you're a chest breather or a belly breather today and get started feeling better by breathing better.

Better breathing is better performance. We need that to have some Better Fit Nurses so get started today.

Have a great end of the week and a warm weekend!

Works Cited




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