We all accept that if we stop breathing we quickly die. However, few of us bother about how we breathe, or whether we are breathing effectively to provide the lungs, blood and brain with the oxygen we need to function at our optimum. By understanding how breathing works, we can implement new breathing techniques to enable us to fight fatigue and low energy levels.

How Breathing Works

The diaphragm in the body draws air into the lungs where oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream. Blood is pumped around the body by the heart, distributing oxygen to the cells which need it to produce energy. It is easy to understand that insufficient oxygen will cause lower energy levels. As we breathe out, the lungs exhale the air, which now contains carbon dioxide produced as a byproduct of energy production.

We can regulate how much air/oxygen we take in. We can take short shallow breaths, or deep breaths and we can breathe rapidly or slowly. Sometimes we do not allow the lungs to fully exhale before we breathe in again. This limits the amount of fresh air entering the lungs, as some of the carbon dioxide laden air is retained. The new lungful of air will have a lower level of oxygen and a higher level of carbon dioxide, so the quantity of oxygen available to the blood is reduced.

Breathing is not something we concentrate on performing. It is partly voluntary and partly involuntary, such as when we are asleep. Most of the time we are too busy to think about our breathing so we let the involuntary breathing take over. However, if we have developed a poor breathing technique it can lead to lower levels of oxygen, fatigue and raised blood pressure. Shallow breathing deprives the body of oxygen so the heart compensates for this by working harder to pump more blood causing high blood pressure. Correct breathing techniques can quickly solve this.

Develop a Good Sitting Position

When we sit leaning forward, at a desk or computer, we compress the abdomen which pushes the diaphragm up into the chest cavity, reducing the amount of air we can inhale. Abdominal fat can increase this problem. Learn to sit up straight so that you can take a full breath.

Breathe in Through the Nose

Many people find it easier to breathe in through the mouth, especially when sleeping, but breathing in through the nose is best. It reduces pressure within the chest so that it is less than the outer air pressure. This differential then lowers the blood pressure naturally.

Breathe in Deeply

Become conscious of how you breathe in and always take in a full deep breath, filling the chest and diaphragm so you take in plenty of oxygen. Feel the diaphragm expand into the abdominal cavity as you inhale.

Breathe Out Slowly

It should take twice as long to exhale as to inhale. Breathe out slowly in a relaxed manner and do not force the air out. Breathe out fully to expel as much carbon dioxide as possible before starting the next in-breath.

Practice Hourly

Be aware of how a good breathing technique should feel. Remember that slow, shallow breathing is depriving your body of oxygen, causing the heart to work faster. Breathe the correct volume at a steady rate. Although naturally you will sink back into old habits, try to concentrate on your breathing once an hour. Gradually your breathing pattern will improve, providing your body with the oxygen and energy it needs to function effectively.