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Breathing for Wellness

Health & Wellbeing

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine stated some 2500 years ago that “breathing is the basic rhythm of life”. It is important to understand the dynamics of breathing and the effect it has on our bodies.

Some interesting facts:

  • The normal rate of breathing is ten to fourteen breaths per minute
  • The pattern at rest is rhythmical and regular
  • Air is moved in through the nose and into the lungs
  • As you breathe in your abdomen rises, and as you breathe your abdomen falls
  • Breathing causes movement that allows gas to be transported and fluid to be pumped around the body.
  • Breathing plays a major role in communication assisting effective speech and voice production. It can be a window into our emotional state, for example that ‘sigh’ of relief, that ‘gasp’ of surprise, that ‘groan’ of pleasure.

Often when you are feeling stressed or anxious your breathing is shallow – sometimes called thoracic breathing or chest breathing. Shallow breathing, also known medically as hypopnea, may result in hypoventilation, which could cause a build-up of carbon dioxide in an individual's body.

Often, we are not aware of our breathing and can be spending a large portion of the day shallow breathing. Check your breath now – are you breathing with your chest rising and falling (shallow breath) or is your abdomen rising and falling – found more in deep breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing or deep breathing is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and abdominal cavity. This deep breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing. It is a form of complementary and alternative treatment.

Diaphragmatic breathing is also known scientifically as eupnoea, which is a natural and relaxed form of breathing in all mammals. Eupnoea occurs in mammals whenever they are in a state of relaxation, i.e. when there is no clear and present danger in their environment.

Learning to check on your breathing and practising breathing more deeply can help you feel relaxed, reduce stress and induce feelings of wellness.

In Tania Clifton-Smiths book Breathe to Succeed she shares some case studies:

Case One: Sarah, agreed twenty-two, suffered from tension headaches two to three time a week since her teens. She reached the point where the headaches were severely limiting her lifestyle. It was found that Sarah was a chronic upper chest breather, using her accessory muscles as the main muscles to breathe with. These muscles were overworked and fatigued causing pain and tension.

Within six weeks Sarah had learnt to reuse her abdomen and diaphragm. Her headaches ceased totally., They return only in times of increases stress. Sarah now sees the headaches act as a good warning sign to stop and listen to her body and assess where she is at

Case Two: Kate, aged forty-two had constant trouble her with bowel and stomach since her teens. Her problem was that she had learn to hold in her abdomen and this had cause bracing of the diaphragm and abdominal contents.

Kate found that when she relaxed her stomach and began to breathe abdominally, within a period of two weeks these functions had started to regulate themselves. Amazing? Not when you consider the movement that occurs in the abdominal cavity when we breathe.

Case Three: Jim, aged fifty-two had had problems with gastric reflux over a year. Within a month of breathing awareness his symptoms decreased significantly.

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