You probably think you’ve got breathing mastered, right? Actually, most of us are doing wrong!
We are taught to suck in our guts and puff out our chests, which causes the muscles to tense and respiration rate to increase. As a result, we are a nation of shallow “chest breathers,” who primarily use the middle and upper portions of the lungs instead of our bellies.
This shallow breathing affects our physiology through the sympathetic nervous system, which is related to stress. In times of stress our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated – our heart rate rises, we perspire, our muscles tense and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow.
Deep breathing, on the other hand, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system- resulting in relaxation and a reversal of the changes seen with stress and the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.
The breath can be used to directly influence these stressful physiological changes. We can consciously slow our heart rate, decrease perspiration and relax muscles by deepening breathing.
Here is a great post from Mark’s Daily Apple about the “correct” way to breath. Basically, you want to breath from your belly, not your chest!
And here are some breathing exercises from Dr. Andrew Weil that you should try!