Have you ever taken note of how you breathe? Take a moment...
Are you breathing from your chest or your stomach?
How do you know? Does your chest rise or does your stomach rise when you breathe in?
Which ever rises first will answer the question - sometimes when you breathe from your stomach your chest will rise as well, but with chest breathing only the chest rises.
Did you know that you can learn to breathe better?
If you practice yoga or meditation you most likely know where this is going, or if you are a trained singer, performer or athlete.
Breath is an important element in improving practice and performance.
To improve your breathing you want to train your body to breathe more from your stomach rather than your chest.
Chest breaths are shallow - think of a person who is hyperventilating, or experiencing shortness of breath - their chest usually rises and falls at a fast rate.
Short breaths can excite your bodily systems to think you are in a state of stress and can actually even increase one's heart rate.
Usually people in these types of situations are told to focus on elongating their breaths helping them to calm down.
Chest breathing can also cause you to experience shortness of breath after a simple flight of stairs because you are not getting enough oxygen into your body - you are only taking in small amounts at a time, so a few steps can feel like a few flights.
Performers, athletes, yogis - already understand the power of deep breathing - but everyone can benefit from taking longer, deeper breaths - especially in western society where no one seems to be able to escape stress.
Breathing from your stomach incorporates the entire lung capacity. You take in more oxygen and let out more carbon dioxide in one breath. The more oxygen you breath in the more oxygen you have in your blood stream- thus powering your muscles to perform optimally.
Increase oxygen uptake is also extremely important for brain health. The brain takes up approximately 20% of the oxygen in your body - so this is clearly something to focus on.
Ok so how do we learn how to take deeper breaths?
First, become more cognizant of your own habits. Do you tend to hold your breath while exercising or concentrating? Do you experience shortness of breath after a few flight of stairs or a big hill? Do you breath through your nose or mouth?
You want to first get curious about your own habits. Then you want to take time everyday to practice stomach breathing.
This is usually best done on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor and lower back on the floor. Put your hand on your tummy and try to actively breath from your stomach- make it rise. Exaggerate this a bit. TAKE YOUR TIME!
Practice this everyday. Set a time where you have to check in on your breath (make it the same time everyday so you get into the habit of noticing your breath).
If you are breathing from your chest - try to switch to deeper, slower breaths from the stomach.
All it takes is practice and soon stomach breathing will be natural and you won't have to think about it anymore. You may even start to notice that you have a sense of calm about yourself and more endurance in your workouts.
There are also yoga classes that teach breathing - do a google search for yoga studios in your area and see if they offer Pranayama classes.