When we were born, we knew how to breathe correctly. We instinctively knew to breathe deeply. Our breaths were rhythmical and relaxed. At the time of our very first breath, we knew what to do.
Somewhere along the line we forgot how to breathe deeply. We may have been frightened, stressed or shocked. We may have panicked and our automatic response was to breathe quickly into our chests. Over time this became our new habit. When I look around a yoga class, I see most people are shallow breathing. But if we do this for a long period of time, we begin to think this is normal.
As you sit at your computer now, notice what your breath is doing. Now breathe deeply. Notice what your shoulders are doing and how your stomach is feeling. Now sit up straight, roll your shoulders back and down. Release any tension in your stomach. Now check in with your breath. Are you breathing deeply into your stomach? This new habit will take effort to maintain at first. Keep checking in with your breath during the day and eventually any tightness in your stomach will reduce.
Shallow breathing means that our organs do not get the same level of oxygen as they do during deep breathing. When you take a long inhale, imagine the air is filling your lungs and expanding your diaphragm. Your intestines are filled with fresh oxygen. If you lay the alveoli out flat (the air sacks in your lungs), they would be the size of a one bedroom flat which is about 450 square feet. Imagine how much more efficient and healthy our bodies would be if we breathed properly!
During shallow breathing, your sympathetic nervous system goes into a state of stress. This informs your body that you are stressed and releases the associated stress hormones. This then creates an imbalance in the body.
Imagine the difference to our health, vitality and energy if we were to breathe deeply everyday. Imagine the positive impact on our performance. Breathing deeply helps your body to perform at its best. It relieves tension, stress and fear. I find that when my breathing is quick and shallow, then my mind is over active. When I consciously control my breathing and aim for deep inhales and long exhales, my mind becomes more peaceful and I am less stressed.
Check how you are breathing now. Are you breathing deeply?