Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Breathe in, breathe out repeat, is great advice and we all do it without thinking about it but are we breathing properly and efficiently?
When we are born we know instinctively how to breathe. If you watch a baby breathing their bellies moves in and out with each lovely breath. But as we go into adulthood we tend to forget to ‘belly breath’ and due to the stresses and strains of everyday life our breathing becomes short and shallow. Consequently, only half of our lung capacity is being used, compromising the amount of oxygen-rich blood being fed to our internal organs and brain and compromising our immune systems. This results in us becoming sluggish and unable to concentrate. Using correct breathing techniques not only supplies oxygen to the body for energy but also nourishes the brain with oxygen, resulting in mental clarity and alertness.
Take The Test
Before we begin the breathing exercise it is a good idea to first establish a baseline for your normal breathing pattern. You will need a stopwatch or you can use the 1 minute video timer below.
1. When you are ready start the timer for 1 minute and start to count your breaths
2. You count an in breath and an out breath as 1 breath.
3. When the minute is up make a note of how many breaths you have taken in 1 minute.
The average adult should breathe between 8 to 12 times per minute. Don’t panic if yours is way above this, I have had some people in my classes who start out with a breath count of above 30 breaths per minute. If your breathing is under 12 breaths per minute well done you are in the minority of most of the adult population and well on your way to good health. But lets check that your breathing technique is correct.
1. Breathe In
The breathing exercise I'm about to show you is known as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. Place a hand over your belly so you can see if you are doing it correctly.
Breath in slowly filling your belly with air. You should see your belly expand as you breath in. Don't be surprised if this doesn't happen the first time.
When you breathe in it should be your belly that is expanding not your chest.
2. Breathe Out
Exhale slowly. As you breathe out you should see your belly (lower abdomen) contract releasing all the air. Of course, air does not really come in and out of the abdomen, but for the sake of visualization, it makes the breathing exercise easier to practice. Remember to pause again briefly before taking the next inhalation. Try this breathing exercise for a few minutes until you begin to fall into a natural rhythm: breathe in slowly, pause, breathe out slowly, then begin timing yourself again for one minute. You should find that your breathing is much slower than your first reading.
As you get better, you will find your breathing will begin to slow down even more perceptibly to maybe four to six breaths per minute. When you are able to do this breathing exercise on a regular basis, not only will you feel more relaxed, but you will experience a whole multitude of health benefits, including mental clarity, better concentration, a stronger immune system, and longevity. If you can slow down your breathing which in turn can slow down your heart rate, you can extend your life span!
We have a saying in Tai Chi the slower you breathe the longer you live.