Breathing to increase Awareness and Relaxation: A Primer
Think consciously for a moment about the breathing process. If you cut off the oxygen flow you will die. Would it not make sense to establish a connection between proper breathing, and overall health? With every breath you take in nourishment in the form of oxygen, which is distributed to the smallest parts of your body. With every out cycle you rid the body of waste products in the form of carbon dioxide.
Improper and inefficient breathing cause you difficulties in copying with stressful situations. Inefficient breathing contributes to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, muscle tension, headaches and fatigue. Bringing your breathing under control and practicing correct breathing will allow your mind to slow its pace and your body will relax. Good breathing habits will enhance overall psychological and physical well being.
With every breath, air is pulled through the nose in order to be warmed, cleansed and humidified. The diaphragm, which divides the abdomen from the lungs, helps your breathing by expanding and contracting with every breath.
Inhalation is the process where the lungs, with their bronchial tubes, carry air to the alveoli (elastic air sacs). Alveoli expand as you take in air and collapse as you exhale. Surrounding the alveoli are blood vessels, called capillaries, which garner oxygen and transport it to your heart. With every beat of your heart this oxygen is carried to all parts of your body. Then, an exchange occurs in which cells receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide that is carried back to the heart and lungs, to be expelled in an exhalation.
This cycle, called respirations, occurs about 12 to 16 times per minute in a healthy adult. Respirations usually involve two distinctive schemes, thoracic breathing (chest), or abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing. Thoracic breathing is linked to anxiety and or emotional distress. It also appears in fashionistas (wearing restrictive clothing) and persons leading sedentary and stressful lives. This form of breathing is shallow, usually irregular and rapid. You can spot it if, when you inhale, your chest expands and your shoulders rise. When people are edgy they might experience breath holding, hyperventilating, or otherwise constricting breathing, shortness of breath and fear of passing out. The fact is, that shallow breathing causes under oxygenated blood, which in turn increases heart rate and muscle tension because your stress response is turned on.
Diaphragmatic breathing is considered the natural way of breathing. Newborn babies and sleeping adults breath that way. With every inhalation air is drawn deep into the lungs and exhaled as the diaphragm contracts and expands. Breathing feel natural and non-constricting. With every respiration this system is doing its thing of energy production and removal of waste impeccably.
By drawing attention to your abdominal breathing and trying to breath in a more diaphragmatic way, muscle tension and anxiety are reduced. The easiest way of eliciting the relaxation response is diaphragmatic breathing.
Next I will follow up with a description of its effectiveness, how long it will take you to master and some useful instructions on how to get you breathing right.
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