Discover the Power of Your Breath

Aug 3, 2022

 by Lateef Johnson

Although the average person takes 22,000 breaths a day, typically it’s automatic and we don’t think anything about doing it. However, from a health standpoint, it is worth taking at least a few minutes every day to pay attention to your breathing

Why should you pay attention to your breathing? The way you breathe, your stress level, your fitness, and your energy are directly linked to your health. All of these factors together affect every single cell in your body. 

Whether you’ve attempted focused breathing exercises in the past or this is completely new to you, our breathing techniques are something that will help you to be successful in your health & fitness goals.

How Breathing Works

When you breathe, air enters your lungs. Oxygen from the air moves from your lungs to your blood and provides essential fuel for every cell in your body. When you breathe out, carbon dioxide, a waste gas, moves from your blood to the lungs and is exhaled. This process is called “gas exchange” and it’s essential to life. 

The way you breathe has an impact on your emotional state. It can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, relaxed, or calmy and energized. 

Breathing deeply in a slow and steady pattern signals your parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body down. 

4 Basic Types of Breathing

Normal “eupnea” breathing. This is the most common form of breathing and, as a matter of fact, it’s probably the form of breathing you’re doing right now while reading this. 

Both your diaphragm (located just below your lungs) and external intercostal muscles (inside your ribs) contract and relax as you quietly breathe.

Shallow “costal” breathing. This is also known as chest breathing and is associated with stress, pain, anxiety, and illness. 

When your intercostal muscles contract, you breathe in air and when they relax, air leaves your lungs without your diaphragm assisting very much.

When we’re breathing normally, we typically take in 12 to 18 breaths a minute. However, several factors can cause us to do faster, less productive shallow breaths such as: 

  • Pain
  • Illness or disease
  • Poor posture
  • Strenuous activity
  • Stress
  • Anger 
  • Fear

Deep “diaphragmatic” breathing. This type of breathing is also known as belly breathing and it’s associated with your body’s natural relaxation response. Belly breathing can help your body relax and function more effectively.

It requires your costal muscles to contract as you inhale and your diaphragm to contract as you exhale. 

There are many benefits to belly breathing:

  • It activates your body’s vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system
  • It helps slow your heartbeat and lowers blood pressure
  • It helps your lungs do a full oxygen exchange
  • It improves your core muscle stability
  • It helps boost your ability to tolerate intense exercise

Hypernea breathing. This is a more intentional or forced form of breathing that you’d use for singing, playing a wind instrument, or while powerlifting or doing extremely strenuous exercise. 

In addition to the normal breathing muscles, other muscles from your neck and core can assist with both breathing in and out.

Nose VS Mouth Breathing

You may not realize it but there’s a huge difference between breathing through your nose and breathing through your mouth.

Benefits of breathing through your nose:

  • Your nose releases nitric oxide when you breathe through it, which helps to widen your blood vessels and improves oxygen circulation in the body
  • Nasal hair filters out dust, allergens, pollen, and foreign particles so they don’t reach your lungs
  • Your nose warms and humidifies the air you breathe, which makes it easier for your lungs to do their job

There are some clear drawbacks to breathing through your mouth:

  • It can dry out your mouth, leading to bad breath as well as dental and jaw problems
  • You can experience an allergic reaction from inhaled particles
  • It’s linked to asthma and snoring
  • It’s also tied to sleep apnea, a dangerous condition in which you hold your breath while sleeping

Now, you can see that there’s a lot more to breathing than you think. And the way you breathe can help to determine if your body is in its parasympathetic state, where you want to be, or the sympathetic state where you don’t want to necessarily be. 

So next time you have a couple of minutes, take a moment to focus on your breathing – your body will thank you for it. 

Need some help with centering yourself and learning some effective breathing exercises? In our next blog, we’ll be going through some breathing exercises that will help you with your health goals.