Take a Deep Breath Means Taking a Belly Breath
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If you are reading this blog, you are obviously breathing. However, many of us (including myself) do not always breathe in the most efficient manner for us to get optimal oxygen through our lungs. And, remember, every cell in our bodies needs oxygen to live and function.
A pH note: To put your need for oxygen in perspective, you can live for weeks without food, days without water but only a few minutes without oxygen.
I recently realized that when I am stressed, I tend to be more of a chest breather as opposed to a belly breather. It’s as if my neck, shoulders and chest tighten up and I forget that a proper, invigorating breath should really come deep down from the belly. I highly recommend checking out the article Five Ways You Might Be Breathing Wrong from the American Lung Association.In addition to the lungs, the body has many powerful breathing tools.
Of course, we absolutely need our lungs to breathe. The lungs are part of the breathing system, also known as the respiratory system. And we have our lungs to thank for every breath of air we take. The lungs move fresh air, which includes oxygen, into the body when we inhale. Then, our blood transports this oxygen throughout our bodies to our cells.
- The Sinuses. A lot of people say, “My sinuses are really bothering me,” without actually knowing what these are. The sinuses are interconnected cavities in the skull. They are located above and below the eyes and are connected to the nose. “Sinuses help regulate the temperature and humidity of inhaled air,” according to the American Lung Association.
- The Nose. It is actually better to breathe through the nose as opposed to the mouth. Those tiny hairs in the nose are great at cleaning the air we breathe.
- The Mouth. It’s a good thing we can take air in through our mouths. If the nose is congested, preventing sufficient air intake, thankfully we can still breathe through the mouth. However, as mentioned, through the nose is the preferred method.
- The Throat. Think of the throat as the “collector.” It collects air that comes through the nose and mouth and then transfers it to the windpipe (also called trachea).
- The Trachea. Think of this as the tunnel from the throat to the lungs.
There are many other parts of the respiratory system that are not listed above such as certain blood vessels, bones and muscles. I do want to specifically point out the diaphragm. If you are a singer, you likely already know how important the role of the diaphragm is when it comes to breathing and producing a beautiful sound when singing. A singer never wants to sing from the nose, because this will produce a nasal heavy sound (which is, quite frankly, very off-putting). It’s better to sing from the belly and the diaphragm.
“Humans are ‘belly breathers,’ and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air,” reports the American Lung Association.
Quite often, we do not breathe this way. We may take in air through the nose and produce a more shallow breath through the chest. Analyze your breath right now. Do you feel the air being sent to the pit of your stomach? Do you feel your belly expanding? If not, you are chest breathing and not belly breathing.Belly breathing may help with maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
It’s actually quite difficult to belly breathe regularly and naturally if you have been chest breathing for a long time. Not to worry, because with regular practice you can change this. The American Lung Association has a great video on how to properly belly breathe.
“Diaphragmatic breathing (also called "abdominal breathing" or "belly breathing") encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure,” according to Harvard Health Publishing.
“But it's especially important for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In COPD, air can become trapped in the lungs, which keeps the diaphragm pressed down. This causes it to weaken and work less efficiently. Diaphragmatic breathing can help people with COPD strengthen the diaphragm, which in turn helps them use less effort and energy to breathe.”Some additional benefits of belly breathing may include:
- Less muscle tension
- Better concentration
- A stronger immune system
- Reduction of stress hormones
- More energy
- And more
Of course, smoking should be avoided at all costs in order to have healthy lungs and an overall healthy respiratory system. Nose, mouth, throat cancer and more cancers of the respiratory system are a real threat in addition to lung cancer. It is also imperative to exercise (yoga is great for belly breathing!) regularly and maintain a healthy weight to maintain a healthy respiratory system and belly breathe to the best of your ability. Nutrition is also invaluable.
For nutrition tips, including specific nutrients that can keep your lungs and respiratory system in top shape, check out these pH Labs blogs:
- It’s Time to Increase Your Lung IQ
- Vaping Is Giving Our Children Lung Disease. Learn How You Can Be Proactive
- Exactly What Caused Nelson Mandela to Miss His 100th Birthday
And last but not least, make sure that you take routine nutrient tests in order to identify any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. Being nutritionally unbalanced increases the risk of disease and the body not functioning at its best. If an imbalance or deficiency is discovered, a competent healthcare professional can help make the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
Remember, breathe from the belly and not from the chest!
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.