We do it all the time without even realizing it. But the way we breathe has a major impact on our wellbeing. Proper breathing technique can help relieve stress, aid your digestion, and relieve pain.
First take a deep breath – this sentence is no accident. With our breath we can calm down, it gives support and security and, if we breathe properly, it can promote our health.
What happens when I breathe?
When we breathe in, air flows through the mouth or nose into our body, more precisely into the lungs. “Adults take around 12 to 15 breaths per minute when they are at rest,” explains Reformhaus® specialist advisor Marion Fischer. “With physical exertion, the number increases to up to 40 to 60 breaths per minute.”
Vital gas exchange
Our lungs ensure vital gas exchange through breathing. “With every breath they take, they supply our body with fresh, oxygen-rich air,” says Marion Fischer. “With every exhalation, they release stale, carbon dioxide-rich air into the environment.”
Energy generation in the cells
Our body constantly needs oxygen to generate energy in the cells. At the same time, the resulting waste product, carbon dioxide, has to be removed. Since we cannot store the oxygen, we have to breathe constantly – even when we sleep. After just five minutes without breathing, irreparable damage occurs to the brain. Apnea divers trained to hold their breath longer can go without oxygen for up to 20 minutes. This is impossible for the untrained and leads to death.
Breathing is controlled automatically
We breathe without thinking about it. Even if we hold our breath once in shock, the breath starts again quickly. Like digestion and the heartbeat, breathing is one of the body’s autonomous processes, which means that they take place by themselves.
The right technique
It is generally healthier to breathe through your nose than through your mouth. Here the air is cleaned and warmed up by the cilia. Those who take a breath through their nose also tend to breathe more calmly. The deeper we breathe into the stomach, the more oxygen arrives and the healthier it is for the whole body to breathe.
Abdominal breathing calms and heals
You can practice so-called abdominal breathing in a targeted manner. To do this, lie on your back, put your hands on your stomach and breathe in and out deeply so that the abdominal wall bulges and lowers. Mainly the so-called diaphragm, a flat muscle in the chest, is responsible for breathing. “Deep breathing can activate the autonomic nervous system, which calms us down, aids digestion and relieves pain,” explains the Reformhaus® specialist advisor.
The 4-to-6 breathing technique
The 4-to-6 technique provides orientation for deep, healthy breathing. You can practice this at any time. First, take a minute or two. Make yourself comfortable and create a relaxed atmosphere. You can breathe while sitting, lying down, or standing. It is important that you wear comfortable clothing and that you do not feel constricted.
Observe the effects
Now breathe in deeply through your nose and count to four. Watch your breathing: which way is it taking? Does it wander into the chest? In the stomach? Then exhale and count to six. Repeat this a few times. After that, you will return to your natural breathing. Maybe something has already changed and you are breathing more deeply than before. Also observe how you feel now: Are you more relaxed than before or was conscious breathing more strenuous for you? If breathing was rather strenuous, it becomes easier with each practice.
Breathing for relaxation and health
Especially when we are stressed or excited, we do not breathe deeply into our stomach, but rather shallowly and quickly. The body does not get enough oxygen, nervousness increases, headaches and dizziness can develop, we feel limp and lacking in energy.
Chest and shoulder breathing promote stress
This so-called chest and shoulder breathing, which we practice in tense situations, also promotes stress. The pulse beats faster and we can hardly relax. Therefore, in stressful situations, try to ask yourself how your breathing is doing.
More energy and calm
“Especially in stressful situations it is important to breathe deeply in and out,” explains the Reformhaus® specialist advisor. “This not only gives us oxygen and thus energy, but also shuts down the nervous system.” A few deliberate deep breaths can immediately bring about more peace and quiet. If the situation permits, this would also be a good time to practice 4-to-6 breathing for a minute or two. In this way we can cope better with challenging situations.
4 tips for better breathing
While tight clothing and poorly ventilated rooms make breathing difficult, there are a few tips that can make it easier to breathe consciously and deeply:
- Comfortable clothing : do not squeeze into tight jeans and skimpy clothes. If the body is externally constricted, it is difficult to breathe. The resistance of clothing prevents deep breathing and we breathe shallowly and superficially. Pants in the right size with a loose waistband and light, stretchy fabrics create a good body feeling and let us breathe in and out deeply.
- Memories : In order to change our breathing and use it for us, the first step is to observe them. We need to remember this, especially at the beginning. Small reminders, such as sticky notes or reminders in the cell phone, can help you to regularly remember to observe your own breath. Often this changes by itself.
- Fresh air : We need air to breathe – with lots of oxygen. You should therefore ventilate regularly, about every one to two hours. To do this, open the window completely for two to three minutes. Especially when you are in the office or home office, this helps to concentrate and to prevent tiredness and headaches.
- Don’t put any pressure on : For many people, breathing deeply into your stomach feels unnatural at first and is more stressful than relaxing. Observing your own breath is often enough to make it change. It doesn’t have to be the 4-to-6 technique either. If this seems too strenuous for you, start with 3-5, i.e. three seconds, inhale and exhale for five seconds.
Knowledge to take away
We breathe all the time without thinking about it. Our body needs oxygen, has to give off carbon dioxide and so we breathe by ourselves.
How we breathe, however, has a major impact on our wellbeing. While short, shallow breaths promote stress and tension the body, deep, long breaths are calming. You can practice correct breathing.
Inhaling deeply into your stomach for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds will calm your nerves, activate digestion, and increase energy and focus.