Breathing - don't underestimate it.
Do you know how to breathe?
It's not as silly as it sounds, If you've ever watched a toddler or baby breathe, you'll see that their tummies rise when they breathe in. What they are doing is breathing correctly with the diaphragm which is our breathing muscle, a muscle that needs to be worked just like the rest of the body. At some point we lost the sensation of breathing with our diaphragm and started using the muscles of our thorax (neck, back, shoulders & chest). When we are stressed, our breathing gets rapid and shallow and we often find our shoulders hunched up around our ears. This lends itself to neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain and additional referred pain around the body. Poor breathing also leads to further release of stress hormones, and an acidic body. Eastern practitioners have known for centuries about the benefits of breathing correctly, and brain scans from western medicine show that correct breathing does in fact improve our mental health.
Healthy, full breathing is how our body maintains it's acid/base balance - this is crucial to good health.
The optimal breathing rate is reported to be around 6 breaths per minute, and the optimal breathing strategy is via the diaphragm using a longer breath out than in.
Lay down on your back and take a deep tummy breath in. Place your hand on your belly and feel how it rises as you breathe in. But don’t strain. It’s easiest to practice laying on the ground. When you let your breath out, the tummy should move back in.
Think of it like a balloon, filling the balloon up with air makes it expand. Our tummy expands because the diaphragm pulls down to fill our lungs with air, the diaphragm then pushes our organs down which causes the belly to rise along with our full lung of air.
To practice breathing at 6 breaths per minute Go to www.mybrainsolutions.com and set up a free account. Go to the dashboard, and scroll to the bottom of the page – select the exercise MyCalmBeat. Set your breathing rate to 6.0. If you struggle to keep up, increase to 7.0 and when you are stronger decrease the rate to 6.0. Set the timer for 2 minutes. Start breathing in time with the image. Remember, use your diaphragm to breathe (tummy breathing). MyCalmBeat can also be downloaded as an iphone app.