Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't forget to breathe

Breathing is such an essential part of our daily lives, we can at times forget how important it is to breathe properly. Breathing is how you fill your blood with oxygen to allow your cells to function properly and breathing is also how you get rid of dangerous metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide.

As automatic as breathing is, you may be unaware of your poor breathing habit and what it is doing to your health. Improper breathing makes your cells overly sensitive because they can’t function properly. As your cells are stressed and you have a hard time making use of the energy stored in your body’s cells you will experience an increased level of anxiety, fatigue and pain. This lack of oxygen at the cellular level is why smokers will experience pain more significantly than non-smokers.

Chest breathers overuse neck and rib muscles instead of using the powerful muscles naturally designed for breathing - the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. As upper cervical (NUCCA) chiropractic practitioners we see neck and chest muscles stressed because they are not designed for this sort of constant use, contributing to greater muscle fatigue and pain. This is why poor breathing techniques can result in you seeing us more often. Very simply the first one third of your breath should come from your chest and the last two thirds should come from your abdomen. Try it, feel the ease with which you can take a deep breath. Relaxing isn’t it?

Stress, poor posture or ill-fitting clothing can also cause us to breathe shallowly. A few minutes of daily deep breathing exercises can help your body absorb more oxygen and function more effectively. More oxygen to the cells means your body can function more efficiently as energy is more easily used. More oxygen to the cells simply means less pain. You will find your body is more alert, mentally and physically.

By doing something as simple as consciously modifying your breathing, you can immediately get health benefits like increased energy and alertness, improved blood circulation, and reduced stress and pain. All these benefits come from simply breathing properly.

There are many different breathing methods but one of the easiest and most effective methods that we have found is called the rule of 7’s. Remember this is not for relaxation so isn’t necessarily easy but it is a simple breathing exercises that you can practice every once in a while (hopefully multiple times a day).

Practice this breathing exercise by getting into a comfortable position, palms facing up, shoulders back, with your chest open. Breathe in and slowly count to seven, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for seven seconds, repeat seven times.

Regular relaxation breathing controls the production of stress hormones in the body, helping to manage stress and anxiety. There are many ways we can incorporate deep breathing into our routine: pilates, yoga, meditation, aerobic exercises, and even vocal training. With all of the benefits, we should consider regular deep breathing exercises throughout the day for improved health and vitality.

Rule of 7’s Exercise

• Find a comfortable position. Palms up, shoulders back and down, chest open.
• Inhale slowly to the count of seven. Only the first one third of the inhale should come from the chest. Feel the belly expand outward as the diaphragm pushes down. Keep inhaling and fill your whole body with air.
• Hold that breath to the count of seven.
• Exhale slowly to the count of seven. As the air is slowly let out, relax your chest and rib cage. Begin to pull your belly in to force out the remaining breath.
• Close your eyes, and concentrate on your Breathing.
• Repeat the breathing cycle seven times.
• Note: If you get light headed reduce the count to a number you can handle (Rule of 3’s). If it seems easy and you want a challenge increase the number (Rule of 14’s)