People breathe differently. Children usually breathe with their abdomens, middle-aged people usually breathe with their stomachs, and older people usually breathe with their upper chests. The way people breathe is affected by emotions, pain, physical fitness, or illness. A 2003 study by the University of Arizona found that in a group of athletes that completed 20 30-minute breathing exercises, 9 of 10 of the athletes improved the performance of their breathing muscles by 12 percent and increased their endurance by 5 percent.
To breathe you must create a vacuum in your lungs. This is accomplished by three methods: expanding the rib cage (chest breathing), lowering the diaphragm (abdominal breathing), or a combination of the two. When babies are born, they breath using their diaphragms, the correct method. You can see their abdomen rising and falling as they breathe. At some point, people turn to the lazy method to breathe, using the rib cage. We learn that we should stand straight, suck in our stomach, and push out our chest. Instead of the abdomen rising and falling when we breathe, the chest rises and falls. Instead of being "belly breathers," we have become "chest breathers." Expanding the ribs is a quick and easy way to breathe but it is ineffective and inefficient.
You cannot completely fill the lungs though rib cage breathing and the intercostal muscles between the ribs tire quickly when heavy breathing is necessary, causing pain in the side of the ribcage. Shallow chest breathing strains the lungs, which must move faster to ensure adequate oxygen flow, and it stains the heart, which must speed up to to deliver more of the oxygen deficient blood to the body. Shallow breathing causes stress, which makes you breathe faster, which cause more stress, which makes you breathe faster, etc. On the other hand, the diaphragm was designed for breathing. It can completely fill the lungs and do it for as long as is required. To fill the lungs to capacity, you should fill them using the diaphragm and then "top them off" using the rib cage. This is called "deep breathing."
- Next >>