When looking at how to breathe properly, there are a few key principles and methods to employ to be efficient, and with practice, ideally proficient. Firstly, you must understand that breathing should primarily be achieved by the diaphragm. You need to become aware of your diaphragm and master that muscle. Now, it is obvious to note that breathing happens naturally…it is not a movement per say that we consciously need to think about in order for it to happen. Nonetheless, we can still be breathing, yet incorrectly. Here is a list of some things you should aim to feel and see happen when breathing correctly:
- With your hand placed on your side, below your ribs, you should feel your abdomen expand into your hand when you breathe in and relax back in when breathing out. This rhythm of expansion/relaxation is what should be happening 24/7 with casual/tidal breathing.
- You should feel that expansion happens all the way around your abdomen—360 degrees, so that you are training your diaphragm to move downwards symmetrically—in the same way that when you blow up a balloon every side evenly expands outward as air fills the empty balloon.
- Ideally, you should feel minimal movement of your chest and shoulders up towards your head, and minimal activation of your neck muscles.
- This should feel as though you are pulling air deep into your lower abdomen or pelvis, not like you are reaching/gasping for air.
- Remember to breathe low and slow. There’s no need to try and take large, deep breaths starting out, you’ll wear yourself out and you’ll naturally breathe more with a chest-dominant breathing pattern.
Now that we have discussed how to breathe correctly, let’s go through some of the reasons diaphragmatic breathing is important and why you should care to become a better breather:
- Breathing properly can aid with:
- Decreasing stress
- Decreasing pain (especially in the muscles around the base of your neck)
- Exercising harder and longer with less fatigue
- Consistent digestion
- Equalizing blood pressure
- Relaxing in order to fall asleep
- Maintaining proper posture
- Bracing your back when lifting