Just Breathe

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Sounds simple. Are you breathing properly to promote better health? Experts agree that practicing regular, mindful belly breathing can be calming, decreases anxiety, improves relaxation and relieve symptoms from menopause.

Deep belly breathing is cleansing and frees the body from toxins, it also provides a boost in energy and even better, it supplies oxygen to the brain which means clearer thinking and better problem solving skills.

It’s easy to determine if you are a chest or belly breather. Place one hand on your abdomen just below your waist and the other hand on your chest. The next part is easy, just breathe normally. Pay close attention to both hands. Which hand moves the most will tell you if you are using the chest or the belly.

Belly breathing is more efficient that chest breathing. It allows blood flow in the lungs to the lower lobes and ultimately uses the entire lung capacity. Breaths taken during belly breathing are slow and deep, take longer to inhale and exhale and deliver more oxygen to the bloodstream.

If you would like to improve your breathing, deep breathing exercises can be done almost anywhere and should be repeated several times during the day, especially whenever you feel stressed, anxious or tired.

Here are a few breathing exercises to get your started:

  • Exercise 1 – This breathing exercise can be practiced either standing or sitting. Just find a quiet place from distractions. Close your mouth and breathe deeply in through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold to a count of four.  Then slowly let your breath out for four counts. Repeat this exercise three more times.
  • Exercise 2 – This exercise is easy and takes little time. It can be practiced either standing or sitting. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. Exhale completely through your mouth and make a whoosh sound (you can purse your lips to make it easier). Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven and exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight (don’t forget to make the whoosh sound). This counts as one cycle. Now, you can repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four.
  • Exercise 3 – This exercise is to help you relax. You might remember doing it in physical education class or at a workshop. This technique works and that’s why it’s stood the test of time. Either sitting or lying down, close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds. Start with your feet and toes, move up to your calves, thighs, glutes, then on to the abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and jaws. Remember to maintain deep slow breaths while tensing and relaxing each muscle group.

If you are new to deep breathing, be mindful that there are possible side effects; however, many people practice deep breathing daily, without experience any negative feelings. If you experience sleepiness, light-headedness, tingling in the hands, feet or face while doing the deep breathing exercises, just return to your normal breathing rate.

Written By

Photo of Dee DeckerDee DeckerExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (828) 488-3848 (Office) dee_decker@ncsu.eduSwain County, North Carolina
Updated on Mar 31, 2017
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