The title of this article, “Re-learn to breathe”, comes from the following observation:
Do not you agree? Just try to think of how many times, inhale and exhale during the day and at night.
1, 2, 3, 4 … wait wait, don’t tell me you’re counting !? I make your job easier: according to some statistics, we breathe on average about 840 times an hour, which means that in one day we make about 20 thousand breaths.
Breathing is the first technique our body uses to feed ourself. We would not survive more than 2 or 3 minutes without breathing air and therefore without the elements of which it is composed!
BREATHING: HOW DOES IT WORK?
The air coming from the surrounding environment passes through the respiratory tract, through the nasal cavities and through the mouth. Both cavities allow the air to reach first the pharynx and, subsequently, the larynx, the trachea, the bronchi and the bronchioles.
These organs have the task of purifying the breathed air, heating it, humidifying it and sending it to the lungs. Through the pulmonary alveolus, the gases contained in the inhaled air can be transferred to the blood. This will thus have the task of transporting these gases from the lung to the cells and vice versa.
In this way the air is introduced and emitted sequentially by the lungs, with respiratory movements called inhalation and exhalation respectively.
Inspiration is the first phase and is an active process. It consists of the contraction of the diaphragm muscle (which is lowered) and the contraction of the intercostal muscles. This causes an expansion of the rib cage which causes a consequent expansion of the lungs as well. Expiration is the second phase and is a passive process. It consists of a decontraction of the inspiratory muscles and the expulsion of the air to the outside once the alveolus returns to its “resting” volume.
Inspiration and exhalation, therefore, which follow each other in a continuous cycle. A cycle that begins when we come into the world and ends when we leave it.
For this reason, the quality of the air particles (composed primarily of nitrogen, oxygen, and to a lesser extent of argon, helium, neon, nitrogen monoxide, etc.) that enter through our nostrils and through our mouth must be hopefully good.
HOW’S YOUR BREATHING ?
Re-learn to breathe also means considering the way we breathe, as this also affects our quality of life.
When, for example, you are in a dangerous situation … have you ever noticed that you have a rapid heart beat and a short breathing at a high rates?
Well, if on the one hand this situation is useful for us to understand that something is wrong at that moment, on the other it should make us think.
Anxiety, stress, panic and even depression can be the causes of an increase in the respiratory rate, even in a resting state.
If you are out of breath (and therefore you are not breathing properly) the state of anxiety increases. The reason lies in the fact that carbon dioxide, which should be expelled from the blood through exhalation, is considerably reduced. In extreme cases, or in the case of “hypercapnic” respiratory insufficiency, the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood increase to the point of generating problems even in the various organs involved.
This happens because the breathing cycles are not complete, nor are they at normal rates. In other words, breathing will only be thoracic, thus involving only the upper part of the lungs and not the abdomen.
AVOID THE APNEAS
My advice is above all to avoid apnea. When you realize that you are avoiding breathing (through agitation, anxiety or simply because you are crouching), try to calm yourself. Then slowly find the right rhythm in breathing, alternating slow and deep inhalation and exhalation.
By “right rhythm” I mean what brings us appreciably benefits and that give us calm and serenity.
It is important to know that self-healing occurs also and above all through proper breathing, with which it is intimately connected. So the sooner you learn to breathe in the right way, the sooner you recognize anxiety states and manage to calm yourself through breathing techniques, the better it will be for you.
DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING: A SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE RELAXATION TECHNIQUE
There is a simple, quick and effective way to calm anxiety. The use of hands, in this technique, will act as a detection system in finding the right respiratory rate.
Relax on the bed, or lie down on a lawn 0r if you can’t … sit in an armchair or chair. Close your eyes and bring one hand to your chest and the other to your belly.
If the hand on the chest moves faster than the one resting on the belly, then your breathing cycles are too high and you need to rebalance the breathing rhythm.
Then move the breath from the chest to the belly, slowing the pace and bringing the respiratory cycles (1 cycle = 1 inhalation + 1 expiration) to about 6 seconds * each.
Go ahead until the hand on the belly moves faster than the hand on the chest. This way you will know that the breath will return to a regular rhythm.
(Of course this process can last 5 – 10 minutes, but even half an hour or more. It depends on how quickly you abandon the anxious thoughts to make room for the relaxing ones and find your inner calm.)
* the 6 seconds are indicative of a normal person. However, if we consider a yogi who has always practiced meditation, it is possible that he or she, with only one cycle, can reach the minute.
Another useful exercise I suggest to do in the morning is this.
Also in this case you can sit or lie down at your discretion, and then bring attention to your breath.
During exhalation, try to exhale all the air from your abdomen and when you are breathing in, fill the abdomen with air as much as possible. Repeat 4 or 5 times to avoid stressing the muscles and respiratory organs excessively.
This is necessary to allow a complete replacement of the air particles (including those that stagnate in the deepest areas) and therefore a more efficient expulsion of carbon dioxide.
THE TYPE OF BREATH DEPENDS ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES
In general, there is no ideal breathing technique for all circumstances. I imagine that you also agree that the breath of an athlete during a competitive performance, or of a singer during a concert performance will be completely different from the breath of a person who meditates or a writer while is writing his novel.
We simply have to learn to support our body in a healthy way. In other words, to breathe in harmony with the activities we are doing at that moment and therefore with the corresponding temporary aerobic needs of our organism.
Breathing too fast, or too slowly, in a rhythmic or continuous manner, is not something we can decide rationally. Certainly, however, if we were to realize that we were not breathing, we could intervene through a simple and gradual stabilization of the breath.
About this topic, I suggest you read:
The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions
LAST ADVICE: DURING THE NIGHT SLEEP WITH AN OPEN WINDOW
I know it may seem strange to you but it wouldn’t be bad at all if, during the night, you left the window open … even just a little. This is to allow continuous air exchange. Doing it at night naturally does not exclude doing it during the day, as the need for oxygenation is always constant.
During the night we breathe stale air simply because not everyone has the good habit of getting new air into the house.
Our body during the night, however, needs fresh and clean air, therefore oxygenated air. This is because the night represents both a resting phase, but also a detox and blood alkalinization phase.
During the winter months this will be difficult to implement, it is true. But if you had to choose to cover yourself with some more duvets and then leave the window slightly open, I wouldn’t consider it a gesture of madness!