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    Is Your Breathing Harmful to Your Health?

    Good breathing is a major component of good health, yet many of us spend our lives breathing incorrectly which can increase our stress levels. The most common type of faulty breathing is chest breathing. Chest breathers underutilize their diaphragm and overutilize their accessory respiratory muscles. Simply observe an infant breathing and chances are good that the baby will be breathing diaphragmatically. However, due to the factors listed below, our breathing mechanisms become altered throughout our lives.

    Some of the modern world factors that can affect respiration include:

    Walking Surfaces
    When someone walks or runs on hard surfaces, their abdominal wall will contract as a mechanism to stabilize the back from the forces that travel up through the leg into the lumbopelvic region. If the diaphragm's movement is limited, it cannot create the space in the thorax that is needed for air to flow into the lungs.  Try walking/running on grass or turf, when possible until you are able to spend 3-4 weeks mastering the breathing exercises.
    If someone is in a stressful situation, their respiration increases and they will generally breathe more from their chest. Also, society has evolved a great deal faster than the human body. We are not equipped to handle this chronic type of stress.
    Take frequent breaks throughout the day, stretch often, take a walk outside without headphones, meditate, take a Yoga class, spend quality time with family, and/or shut the TV and computer off two hours before bedtime. 
    Poor Posture
    Good posture is not only important for respiration, but also for the health of joints, visceral functions, muscle balance, energy efficiency and esthetics. When someone develops a faulty posture that includes a forward head and rounded shoulders, they are constantly in the position of forced expiration.  Stand up to work instead of sitting, stand and/or sit with a neutral spine with chest up, stretch chest muscles frequently throughout the day, distribute weight evenly on both feet when standing, and/or switch arms when holding an object or performing a task. 
    Poor Nutrition
    Processed foods and/or pesticide and hormone-ridden foods can cause dysfunction within the body. These food allergies can affect respiration.  Clean up your diet, avoid processed foods, eat organic foods and eliminate alcohol when possible. 

    Exercises for Optimal Breathing

    For this exercise, start by lying on your back. Once you become proficient, you can then progress to seated, then standing for this exercise. Start with at least 10 minutes per day. Work toward doing this exercise several times throughout the day.

    1. Assume the starting position.
    2. Place your hands on your abdomen, or hold a water bottle on it so you can see or feel its movement.
    3. Slowly inhale through your nose. Concentrate on filling your belly with air (using your diaphragm). With your hands, you should feel the abdomen fill with air like a balloon (see the water bottle rise), while letting your abdominals relax and your ribs slightly move outward and upward.
    4. Exhale slowly through your mouth by drawing the navel in slowly and tightening the abdomen to push the air out (imagine using your abdominals to squeeze the balloon).

    NOTE: While inhaling, if your hands or water bottle that is resting on your abdomen are not rising, your diaphragm most likely is not descending as it should.

    For this exercise, you may assume any comfortable position. This exercise is intended to help balance the psychophysiology of a person. Complete 1-3 sets with 20 repetitions done with each nostril per set.

    1. Assume the starting position. Depending on the ease with which you can breathe with your diaphragm, it will be lying on your back, sitting or standing.
    2. Close off one nostril with your index finger.
    3. Using only the open nostril, inhale slowly. You can place your other hand on your abdomen to ensure that you are breathing diaphragmatically. (*See #3 on Exercise 1)
    4. Exhale slowly through the same nostril.
    5. Complete 20 repetitions, then switch nostrils and complete 20 more repetitions.

    NOTE: When switching nostrils, if there is difficulty breathing through the nostril, you can lie on your side with the plugged nostril's side up. This will help open that nostril.

    *When doing both of these exercises, it is very beneficial to be as relaxed as possible. Try to create a relaxing, quiet environment for yourself when doing them. It can also be helpful to imagine that with every breath taken, you are drawing vitalizing energy into your body.

    1. Chek, Paul. Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching Course, Level 1. C.H.E.K. Institute. Encinitas, CA. 2002.
    2. Chek, Paul. Scientific Core Conditioning (Correspondence Course). C.H.E.K. Institute. Encinitas, CA. 1998.
    3. Farhi, Donna. The Breathing Book. Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1996.
    4. Jahnke, Roger. "Breathing Exercises and Self-Healing." September 1, 2002. Internet (www.mercola.com/2001/feb/20/breathing.htm)
    5. Pottenger, Francis. Symptoms of Visceral Disease. Fifth Edition. Mosby, 1938.
    5. Steindler, Arthur. Kinesiology: of the Human Body. Charles C Thomas Publisher, 1955.