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The Correct Way to Breathe: You May Not Be Doing It Right

By Donna Stark

The Correct Way to Breathe: You May Not Be Doing It Right

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to remind your body to breathe every day? To consciously tell it to take a breath every few seconds of your life? That would be quite an impossible feat knowing that we take approximately 25,000 breaths per day (give or take), but thankfully, it’s something you never have to think about. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the necessary steps to improve the way you breathe.

There is a lot more to breathing than you may realize, and if you ever wondered if there was a right and wrong way to breathe, the answer is yes.

Now, take a deep breath and let’s see if you’ve been doing it right.

What Does it Mean to Breathe Correctly?

A surprising fact about breathing is that if you aren’t doing it correctly, you could be missing out on a lot of health benefits. Proper breathing techniques can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy and focus, and improve your overall well-being. But what does proper breathing even look like? Here are some simple tips that will help get you started on the right path of breathing.

Pay Attention to Posture

People with poor posture (hunched shoulders, tight chest muscles, forward head position) are more likely to have trouble breathing than those with good posture. This is because poor posture encourages shallow breathing, which is the exact opposite of how we should breathe (more on that later). It’s important to sit tall and stand straight, pull your shoulders back, maintain a neutral head position, and keep your chest open for optimal breathing.

Relax Your Body’s Breathing Muscles

Tension in the body can make it very hard to breathe, especially if that tension is found in the abdominal, upper chest, neck, and intercostal muscles (muscles within the rib cage). Try to engage in more of the things that will help your body relax. Here are some easy suggestions to try.

  • Routine chiropractic care
  • Daily exercise
  • Morning and evening stretches
  • Warm baths
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga and meditation

Breathe Through Your Nose

In general, it’s healthier to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth because it’s more natural and helps your body use the air you inhale more effectively. If you are a mouth-breather and need help switching to nose breathing, look into mouth tape. It’s an effective way to keep your lips closed. Or you can check out the reasons below why nose breathing is the gold standard of respiration. They may give you just enough motivation to change your habits.

  • Warms and filters the air before it enters your lungs
  • Reduces exposure to foreign substances
  • Increases airflow to arteries, veins, and nerves
  • Improves lung volume
  • Helps your diaphragm work properly
  • Lowers your risk of infection, allergies, and hay fever
  • Lowers your risk of snoring and sleep apnea
  • Supports the correct formation of your teeth and mouth

Use Your Diaphragm Muscle

The dome-shaped muscle that is located beneath the lungs, and responsible for most of the work involved in breathing, is called the diaphragm. When a person inhales, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward. This creates the space needed for air to enter the lungs. When it’s time to exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, and the air is then pushed out. When people talk about using the diaphragm to breathe, they often refer to it as belly breathing, abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing.

For some people, diaphragmatic breathing doesn’t come very naturally, or at least not as naturally as it did when they were a newborn. If this sounds like you, your best bet is to practice breathing that way. Here’s a breathing exercise that will help you strengthen your diaphragm.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and a pillow under your head
  • Place one of your hands on your chest and the other hand on your belly
  • Take a slow, deep breath through your nose
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling through pursed lips
  • Watch your hands for movement (the one on your stomach should rise and fall with each breath, the hand on your chest should stay still)

What Are the Benefits of Belly Breathing?

When we are born, we don’t need to be instructed by our mothers on how to breathe correctly or enrolled in a Breathing 101 class for newborns. We just instinctively know how to belly breathe. But over time, many of us deviate from that, and we turn to another type of breathing pattern that isn’t as healthy -- shallow breathing. Shallow breathing is the complete opposite of belly breathing. Unlike belly breaths, which are slow and deep, shallow breaths are short and quick. This type of breathing is similar to how one would breathe during a stressful event and when the body is in fight or flight mode.

There are many reasons why belly breathing is deemed far superior to shallow breathing (chest breathing). Here are just a few of the most notable.

  • Delivers more oxygen to the bloodstream
  • Helps reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improves muscle function during exercises
  • Helps prevent strain and injury
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Aids in the management of certain health issues, such as COPD and asthma
  • Increases energy and focus
  • Reduces the risk of hyperventilation and shortness of breath

Can Chiropractic Care Help Correct Poor Breathing Patterns?

You may be surprised to learn that chiropractic care can play a vital role in the function of your respiratory system. Chiropractic adjustments place your spine in proper alignment and help to ease muscle tension, restore motion to your upper back and hips, correct posture, and improve the function of your nervous system.

Your chiropractor may also share some of their favorite stretches and diaphragmatic breathing exercises that may help improve your lung function and breathing.

Where Should You Start?

If you are concerned about your breathing or are struggling with respiratory issues, try to follow the suggestions above. By using proper posture, learning how to relax, improving flexibility through your upper back and chest, breathing through your nose, and practicing diaphragmatic breathing regularly, it shouldn’t take too long before you start to notice a difference in how well you are breathing and feeling.

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