We release 70% of our toxins through breathing alone! If we consider that 80% of us only use 30% of our breathing capacity that means you are probably not getting rid of all the toxins you should be.
When we breathe, our belly should move forward. Most of us though, will feel our shoulders lift instead, which means we are breathing into our upper chest only. We should breathe down deep into the lowest part of the lungs, which pushes the diaphragm down and therefore pushes our bellies out. The diaphragm is a muscle wall that goes across our body to separate the digestive system from our respiratory system (i.e. our lungs and heart from our intestines, stomach, liver etc.)
When we breathe properly, we are able to deal with stress in a much more effective manner as we are more grounded and our brain is receiving the proper amount of oxygen. When we are stressed, we instantly cut off our breathing. We also do this when angry or upset. When we do this, it exacerbates the emotions and we can spiral out of control and react in ways we normally wouldn't. The good news is that once we are aware this happens, we can remind ourselves and control our breathing, which will then pull us out of the stressed or emotional state and restore us to being grounded and centred.
If we are stressed, we release a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol is present in our bodies it is impossible to lose weight! To add to this, cortisol makes the fat cells on your belly expand and you will notice weight gain around the mid-section. This is why yoga and correct breathing are so good for weight loss. Breathing alone will restore your body to a calm state if you take some time (2 minutes, 5 minutes or even more if you can manage) to concentrate on the breath.
Incorrect breathing can actually affect your metabolism. Food needs to combust with oxygen in order to properly metabolise. If you are only breathing at 30% of your capacity, this won't be happening. If you walk around holding your belly in tight to look slimmer (which inhibits your breathing ability), you are actually having a negative effect on your metabolism AND therefore your weight loss efforts!!
We should always breathe in AND out through our nose. This ensures we have the correct balance of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the body. When they are out of balance the body automatically goes into that 'fight/flight' mode -- which is stress for your body and mind.
If you experience constant neck and shoulder tension, this too could be because of incorrect breathing. This is because shallow breathing uses the secondary breathing muscles. Belly breathing (below) uses the primary breathing muscles, which are the abdominal muscles, the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm.
Try this: Lie on your back with one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly (below the navel). Get rid of all your breath and then inhale and notice which hand moves. If your chest moves, make a conscious effort to lift the belly on the INHALATION and then let the belly fall to the spine on the EXHALATION. Do this for a few minutes. You can actually consciously use your belly muscles to move the belly to begin with. Eventually they will move by themselves. The chest shouldn't move very much. The chest may expand only if you take a very big breath in and only after the belly has fully expanded.
After you think you've got the exercise above, try it sitting up. Put one hand on your belly, one hand on your chest. The belly pushes forward on the inhalation and pulls back in on the exhalation. It is harder once you are sitting up, so you may have to go back to lying down for a few weeks, until your body learns how to do it.
If you are having trouble breathing like this you may need to open up some breathing spaces. The intercostal muscles -- the muscles that join each of your ribs - may be tight -- especially if you haven't been breathing properly in the first place.
Try this: Sit on the floor with both feet bent over to the right. The right foot is beside your right buttock (inside of foot on floor), the left foot is pressing up to your right thigh with the toe near the knee (outside of foot to the floor). Try as much as you can to sit with both buttocks on the floor. For some of us this is very difficult, but as the hips open up it will become easier.
Interlace your hands and place them behind your head and pull your elbows back.
As you exhale, bend your body to the right and stretch your left elbow to the ceiling. Make sure you keep pushing your left knee down to the floor as you move away from it. Breathe in and you come back up to the starting position. Exhale back down the same way. You repeat this movement for 8-10 repetitions keeping both elbows in line with your torso.
This will stretch open the ribs and the muscles that join them, giving the lungs more room to move.
Don't try too hard to breathe properly. The harder you try the worse it gets. Relax the body and gently breathe.
If you are struggling to breathe in a full breath….
Exhale all of the air out of your lungs and keep exhaling. Squeeze the lungs to make sure you get rid of as much as possible. THEN allow your body to breathe in. Often we can't breathe in because we haven't breathed out enough! That's all you need to do, breathe out fully -- and more forcefully than your normally would and after, your body will have to take a deep breathe in.
If you are having trouble you may need assisted help to unlearn all your old habits.
If you feel you need more assistance, l
ook out for our next breathing workshop in the studio!!!