BREATHING: One of the most important functions we carry out without thought is breathing. The more efficiently we breathe, the more benefits our bodies derive from each breath that we take. The optimal form of breathing is diaphragmatic or belly breathing, using the diaphragm muscles as opposed to the chest muscles to expand the lungs and pull air into them. Breathing with the diaphragm pulls air into the lower lobes of the lungs where the greatest amount of blood circulates allowing optimal oxygen transfer to the blood and maximal delivery of nutrients to the tissues.,. By comparison, chest breathing is inefficient because the greatest amount of blood flow occurs in the lower lobes of the lungs, areas that have limited air expansion in chest breathers. Rapid, shallow, chest breathing results in less oxygen transfer to the blood and subsequent poor delivery of nutrients to the tissues. This becomes especially important in times of stress or anxiety when deep rhythmic breathing can aid in calming the sympathetic nervous system. Consciously slowing the breathing can result in lowering blood pressure, lowering heart rate, reducing perspiration and muscle tension. The good news is that similar to learning to play an instrument or riding a bike, you can train the body to improve its breathing technique. To get an idea of how diaphragmatic breathing looks, just watch a baby breathe. Most babies instinctively breathe with their diaphragms, their chests/rib cages stay relatively still and their bellies puff out slowly with each breath. To get an idea of how diaphragmatic breathing feels, start by placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly when lying on your back. Inhale slowly, bring your awareness to your torso and focus on gently pushing the hand on your belly further up than the hand on your chest, pause for a few seconds and slowly allow the air to flow back out of your lungs. Itíll be easier to practice this lying down at first, so try to spend a few minutes every night before going to bed and every morning before rising. As this method of breathing becomes more of a habit, you may find it easier to breathe this way through out your day. As you become more aware of HOW you breathe, it will become easier to keep yourself breathing with your belly.
With regular practice you will breathe from the abdomen most of the time, even while asleep.