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Just Breathe

by Kirstin Uchida

Breathing, it is something we do every minute of every day, generally without much thought. You would think we should all be experts at it, considering how often we take a breath. So, it might surprise you that many of us are breathing in counter-productive ways. Did you know it is quite common for people working at computers to hold their breath, or people who are in pain to breathe rapidly and/or hold their breath or someone who is “trying” to breathe for relaxation to breathe “paradoxically”? Some of us may be making clothing choices that hinder our breathing. Do you work in front of a computer? Have you ever been in pain or stressed out? Ever worn a tight pair of pants? Chances are, you answered yes to at least one of the above.
In this blog, I will describe a common breathing problem “paradoxical breathing” and then guide you through some steps you can take to improve your own breathing. But first, take a moment to notice your breathing pattern. When you inhale, what moves (or doesn’t move)? When you exhale what moves (or doesn’t move)? Are your breaths slow and relaxed? Do they come in short bursts? Spend a minute just noticing what you do. In a quiet respiration, a productive and efficient breathing pattern is as follows: inhalation is through the nose, belly rises and rib cage lifts and moves gently to the side and air enters the bottom of the lungs first. During exhalation, the belly gently moves towards the spine and the rib cage moves down and in, air exits the nose.
During paradoxical breathing, on an inhalation, the chest rises and our belly moves inward and on an exhalation, the abdomen pushes outwards. This pattern does not allow for lateral chest expansion or correct diaphragm movement.

So what can you do about it? Try the following steps to resume a more productive and efficient breathing process:
1. Change into comfortable, loose clothing – nothing that restricts the chest or abdomen.
2. Find a quiet place to lie on your side. It doesn’t matter what side. If you can’t lie on your side, try sitting in a reclined position. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
3. Begin inhaling through your nose, imagining your belling filling slowly with air from the bottom up, allowing your belly to rise. Feel your hand gently moving away from your spine. There should be very little to no chest movement.
4. Exhale through your nose. Feel your hand gently moving toward you spine. There should be very little to no chest movement.
5. Continue inhalation and exhalation as you feel comfortable for 3-5 breaths. Stop if you feel light-headed.
6. Then, try diaphragmatic breathing while you are in a less relaxed state. You may be able to reduce your stress and tension.

If you have been breathing paradoxically for a while, be easy on yourself. It can take practice to find the right rhythm for you. Diaphragmatic breathing is a fantastic foundation for learning another important skill – engaging your core! So practice that breathing and keep an eye out for my next blog “Finding Your Core”.



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