Health & Wellness

So you might be breathing wrong after all? Here’s what to do.

One of the few things most people can do without thinking about it is breathe. If you can read this, you’re probably taking in enough oxygen to stay alive, but you could probably improve the way you breathe. Yes, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. SheKnows talked to several health and wellness experts to find out what we’re doing wrong, how we can fix it, and what it can do for our health.

What’s wrong with us
Even though we breathe on our own, that doesn’t mean we’re doing it right. A family doctor named Dr. Nikola Djordjevic says that most people breathe with their chests, which doesn’t let oxygen into the diaphragm. He tells SheKnows that this makes you breathe shallowly, which keeps your body from getting enough oxygen.

“It causes rapid, shallow breaths which doesn’t fully oxygenate the body and can cause hyperventilation and brings about symptoms of fatigue and dizziness,” Dr. Vinay Saranga, a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry, tells SheKnows. That is, it’s not the best way to do it.

Instead, we should do
If you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to proper breathing, Djordjevic shares three pointers:

Breathe more slowly. Most people make the mistake of taking quick breaths. Between 10 and 12 breaths per minute is what most people do.
Use your diaphragm to breathe, not your chest. If you breathe in, but your ribs don’t move to the side, you’re probably not doing it right. Focus on breathing with your diaphragm and try not to move your chest and shoulders when you inhale.
Take time to breathe out. A lot of people just don’t take the time to let all the oxygen out of their lungs, which can cause them to overbreathe. In fact, letting out air should take even longer than taking it in. This way, you will slow down your breathing rate and increase the quality of breaths.
The diaphragm is the key.
So the two major takeaways there are to slow down and breathe with you diaphragm. Great, but what is a diaphragm besides a method of birth control that was often talked about on 90s sitcoms?
Sukie Baxter, an expert on posture and movement, says that when you breathe in, the large muscle at the bottom of your rib cage that looks like a dome flattens out and pulls air into your lungs. Intercostal muscles, which are small muscles between each rib, help with this process by opening up your ribs to let air in.

“However, instead of using the diaphragm, many people simply ‘pooch’ their belly forward, distending their abdomen,” she tells SheKnows. “The rib cage moves very little or not at all, and the lungs don’t get very big.”

Baxter says that you can check to see if you’re using your diaphragm by putting your hands on your sides above your waist and pressing your fingers flat against your rib cage as you breathe in. When your diaphragm is working, you can feel your ribs move up and out to the side. “If you don’t, you’re probably letting go of your core muscles, which you need to support your back, and instead letting your stomach out,” she says. “Pay attention to breathing into the space between your hands on the sides of your rib cage until you feel your ribs move.”

Baxter says that you will be able to breathe in while your shoulders drop, which is another sign that your diaphragm is working. She explains, “That means that when you breathe in, your shoulder blades should move down your back.” “This is happening because your ribs are growing under your shoulders. If you breathe with your shoulder muscles instead of your chest muscles, you won’t be able to drop your shoulders when you inhale.

Don’t panic and don’t stop breathing.
Saranga says that when it comes to breathing right, the most important thing is to practice when you feel calm. “It’s going to be harder if you wait until you’re worried, stressed out, or on edge. But if you practice proper breathing all the time, you’ll be more likely to use it when your body feels a little out of control to quickly calm down,” he says.
And you don’t have to spend hours trying to learn how to breathe again: Even a few minutes a day is a good start, and Saranga says you can do it in bed, on your way to work, or at your desk. But the best way to relax is to practice proper breathing in a calm place.

Why it’s important
Djordjevic says that if you want to breathe right, you should try to take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths. He says that this way, all of the organs will get enough oxygen to work, which will make the muscles less tense and give the person more energy and focus.

Proper breathing is not only good for your body, but it is also good for your mind. It can help you calm down and feel less anxious. Correct breathing is a great way to feel better that anyone can and should try, since it’s free and doesn’t have any bad side effects.