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  • Dr. Liz Homan

Your Powerful Breath!

From that very first breath when we are born to our last breath before we transition, our breathing is one of the most essential actions that our body makes! We take an average of 12 breathes a minute, 720 per hour and 17,000 per day! And how many times do we stop to think about our breathing and to be grateful for our ability to breath and for the air that we are breathing? Probably not enough.

Breathing, or ventilation, is made up of inhalation and exhilaration. Inhalation, or inspiration, is when the diaphragm moves to expand the body cavity allowing our lungs to be filled with oxygen. The blood pumping through the lungs than takes this oxygen and exchanges it with carbon dioxide. As the lungs exhale, we get rid of carbon dioxide to allow more room for oxygen.

Even though the general exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide happen, there are proper and improper ways to breath? Proper breathing is breathing that is done from the belly or what is known as deep breathing. So, when we breath in, the diaphragm moves downward, which creates a vacuum in the lungs to pull the air in. The belly moves up and down during relaxed breathing, which is a sign that the diaphragm is fully contracting and expanding, which allows for all of the oxygen in the lungs to be utilized.

Improper breathing is what is know as shallow breathing. This is when you increase the size of your chest cavity by pulling up. This results in most of the air in the top of your lungs not being utilized properly and is not efficient. The air at the top of the lungs is usually carbon dioxide which then turns to an acid which eventually leads to added stress on the body. Some signs of improper breathing are:

· Neck, shoulders and chest moving excessively while breathing

· Jerky breathing that ends in a sigh

· Rapid breathing, which would be more than 20 breaths per minute

· Uneven breathing, so rapid breathing followed by a long, jerky pause

· Mouth breathing, even when the nostrils are not blocked

· Loud or noisy breathing

If you notice that you have improper breathing patterns, what can you do about it? Well, here are a few exercises to help retrain your breathing patterns.

· Visualize your breath coming from the deeper part of your lungs and begin to focus on taking deeper breaths

· Relax your breathing process. Start by planting your feet on the floor evenly and relax your shoulders and soften all of your joints. At the same time, stretch your body as if trying to reach the ceiling through the top of your head and focus on remaining loose and extend your core as you inhale and exhale.

· Place both hands over your stomach and feel your stomach expand as you breath in. As you breath out, apply slight pressure on your stomach. This will help you be more aware of how you should be breathing.

Jane Boston, a senior voice practitioner at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London says that focusing on proper breathing can be the best preventative treatment for numerous health issues such as asthma and high blood pressure, even aches and pains are created by bad upper body posture. She also states “On a philosophical level, breathing properly helps to keep the mind open, enabling you to think about who you are and what and why you’re doing something. But primarily, if you breath in the right way, you’ll have better digestion, your balance will be improved, and you’ll develop an optimum posture.”

Slow down, notice your breathing and if you realize that you are breathing improperly, work on the exercises above. If you have pain or discomforts while trying to take a cleansing breath, you may have a misalignment in your middle back leading to interference in the correct function of the body. Let me know if you are experiencing this and we can get you set up for an initial evaluation to see how chiropractic can improve your breathing!

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