Breath is the most essential physical need of the human body. The quality of one’s breath can deeply affect a person’s circulation, nervous system, emotions and overall health. Breathing is the only activity that humans do both voluntarily and involuntarily. Since we have the ability to control our breath, we can control the quality of our breath to improve our health. Improving breathing habits is not only beneficial, but it’s also easy.
If we look at somebody breathing we can get a better idea of the mechanics of how to breathe deeply. Watch this video of deep breathing to get a better idea of what healthy breathing looks like, and feel free to join in if you’d like.
Put one hand on your belly, and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath. Notice which of your hands is moving. If your top hand is moving you are taking shallow breaths. If the hand on your belly is moving, you are practicing deep breathing. It might be helpful to take a look from a side view. Notice that with each inhale the belly softens and expands, and with each exhale the belly comes closer to the back. Breathe in, breathe out while releasing. If you have the opportunity, it might also be helpful to try this lying down. When you’re lying on your back and taking a deep breath in, your belly should expand toward the ceiling. When you release, your belly should melt into the floor toward your spine.
Ever notice the ease with which a baby breathes? Watch while they’re sleeping on their backs. Their stomachs freely move up and down with each inhale. Or think back to the last time you exerted yourself with exercise. Your ribs and lungs were expanding and contracting fully with no thought. This kind of full engagement of the body and the easy motion in the torso shows us the proper mechanics of deep breathing.
The mechanics of breathing are fairly simple. Breathing is controlled by the large muscle between the chest and abdomen called the diaphragm. When a person breathes in, the diaphragm drops, creating a vacuum in the chest and the lungs expand, and in doing so draw in new air. When a person exhales, the diaphragm rises to expel the air before the next new breath.
Deep Breathing Exercise at Work
Here’s a simple breathing exercise that you can try on your own. Sitting in a chair, imagine your spine long, released and lengthened. It might help you to imagine your body suspended from a string holding you up from the crown of your head. Now, touch your lower belly and take a deep breath, feeling the movement in your hand. Take a deep breath in for one count, hold the breath for four counts, and release the breath for two counts. You can practice this breathing technique at your desk at work, even for just a minute or two, to help you reconnect to your body, relax, and recharge.