The benefits of abdominal breathing

February 25, 2012

Health, Natural therapies

As we inhale, the diaphragm contracts, enlarging the thoracic cavity and helping the lungs fill with oxygen.

by Dr. Nicholas Warner — 

We all breathe. Adults take anywhere from 17,000 to 30,000 breaths a day, on average, most of the time without even realizing they are doing it.

That said, you will probably be surprised to learn that most people actually do not breathe correctly, at least not on a consistent basis. Correctly means breathing that maximizes oxygen exchange in the lower lobes of the lungs. More oxygen equals more nourishment for cells.

A structure called the diaphragm separates the heart, lungs and ribs (the thoracic cavity) from the abdominal cavity. As we inhale, the diaphragm contracts, enlarging the thoracic cavity and helping the lungs fill with oxygen. As the diaphragm relaxes, we exhale, forcing carbon dioxide out of the lungs. This is why correct breathing technique is referred to as diaphragmatic breathing.

In simpler terms, ideal breathing is known as abdominal or belly breathing; it should engage the belly button, rather than the upper chest. Visually, if you are breathing properly, your lower belly will rise more than your chest.

So, how are you breathing? Find a quiet place and take a few slow, deep breaths, concentrating on letting your abdomen expand fully with incoming air. Place one hand just below your belly button; it should rise and fall about one inch with each breath.

If you are breathing incorrectly, practice doing it the right way. Proper breathing can aid in relaxation, reduce blood pressure and heart rate and, of course, help deliver the most oxygen to body tissues. Talk to your doctor for more information.

 

Dr. Nicholas Warner is a certified massage therapist and a doctor of chiropractic with Wellness in Motion, Inc., in Phoenix. He is an instructor for The Southern California University of Health Sciences and Utah College of Massage Therapy. 602-863-4252 or www.wellness-in-motion.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 5, Oct/Nov 2010.

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