Are You Breathing?

Silly question, yes. But are you really breathing?

Think about how you breathe when you are in pain. I’ll bet it is shallow, almost panting or gasping, high up in your chest.

Your diaphragm is the muscle that sits at about your solar plexus, in the center of your chest. It moves, and you breathe. If you are breathing shallow, it is not moving very much. This is impacting your body immensely.

Let’s say you take a nice, deep breath, all the way down. Like your lungs are in your belly. Let out a nice, long sigh as you exhale. What just happened?

Well, for starters, as your diaphragm pulled much lower down you got a bunch more oxygen into your lungs. If you went nice and slow, your lungs had extra time to exchange out the stagnant gases from the bottom of your lungs and absorb the nice clean oxygen. That is super important. If you breathe shallow regularly (and that is very common), you don’t really get that optimal oxygen exchange. Your body is constantly deprived of oxygen.

Second, your diaphragm pulled down and massaged all those organs underneath it. There is a heck of a lot going on down there, especially involving your digestive tract. Breathing deeper stimulates peristalsis (that muscle flow that moves food through your gut) to regulate and can help your body move out stagnant gases and foods from your large and small intestine.

Third, the diaphragm is a big ol’ muscle. When you move it more, it has been shown to give a little extra push to blood. That’s right, you are increasing circulation throughout your body while taking pressure off your heart. Now we are getting somewhere.

Fourth, you are pumping lymph. That’s right, the white-blood cell filled fluid that travels around and plays and integral part of your immune system has no heart to pump it, even though it is a system as extensive as your circulatory system. Lymph moves only through three methods: skeletal muscle movement (when you move), smooth muscle contraction (when your veins open and close or that peristalsis kicks in), and thoracic pressure (when you breathe)! Just by breathing we are affecting at least two of those systems, helping to boost your immune system.

Fifth, you are snapping your body out of fight-or-flight mode. It is really hard to stay in that sympathetic “I’m stressed and under attack” body state when you are breathing slow and deep. It is even harder with a sigh. For your already excited sympathetic system, please breathe slow and deep!

Finally, if you are giving a big sigh, you are letting out several gases, one of them being nitric oxide. If you find yourself sighing constantly throughout the day, your body is already trying to do this. Use it as a tool for you! If you have too much, your body will feel like an overinflated balloon, tender, tight, and ready to pop. Let out some air. If you are on the other side, a half inflated balloon with no bounce that yawns all the time and only wants to sleep (and exercise makes your pain way worse), you should be gathering in more with a yawning breath, in through the mouth, and out through the nose.

Several systems in your body stop working optimally if you are unable to move. Just by breathing you can get them going again. Give it a try!

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