How do you breathe?
This was the question a guy asked on a video I saw a few months ago. My initial answer was “ermm… by breathing, how else am I suppose to breathe?”
However, despite my over-confident answer, he revealed that there is a correct way to breathe and why incorrect breathing is actually having a detrimental effect on our emotional and physical well-being without us even realising it.
Most of the time I was breathing through my mouth. I was a mouth breather… oh no!!! Mouth breathing is what actually causes and intensifies chronic hyperventilation, apparently.
According to the video I watched, the correct way to breathe is through the nose whilst keeping the mouth closed. I never really knew this and I didn’t really think it actually mattered, but according to science, it really does.
Quite recently, with the help from a friend, I stumbled upon a program called The Buteyko Breathing Method. It teaches you how to readdress the problem people are facing with breathing through the mouth.
Whilst, I haven’t actually paid for the program myself, there are quite a lot of free videos on YouTube about this breathing method. I highly recommend checking them out. In fact, at the end of this article, I will link you to a couple of videos that I find to be very useful.
One of the things that took the longest to clear up for me was mind fog and fatigue. I still experienced these things until very recently actually. However, by correcting my breathing and practicing it on a daily basis for several months, my mind fog and fatigue has cleared up.
I believe that this was due to an imbalance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in my blood. When there’s an imbalance, symptoms of fatigue and mind fog are pretty common. Fix the issue and you fix the symptoms.
The myth that taking deep breaths is good for you
How many times are we told to take a big deep breath when we are in a state of stress? It’s pretty much every single time isn’t it?
However, what I’ve come to learn is that taking deep breaths is “bad” for us as it increases our breathing volume. I know that may sound like a good thing, but increasing our breathing volume is what actually causes us to create this imbalance in the first place.
When we breathe in a lot more oxygen than necessary, which is what happens when we breathe through the mouth, we are actually causing an imbalance.
Taken from the buteyko clinic website
“There is a common belief that the more air we breathe, the healthier we are. Few people realize that in order to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the tissues, breathing should be slowed down so that less air enters the body. You know that you are taking less air into the lungs than normal when you experience a tolerable feeling of air hunger. Within a few minutes of continued slowing of the breath to experience air hunger, body temperature increases to indicate an improvement to blood circulation.”
Did you know that breathing through the mouth encourages the activation of the fight/flight?
When we breathe through our mouth, we are encouraging the fight/flight response to activate. Why? Because mouth breathing is what we do when we’re in danger. It’s a quick gasp.
Let’s face it, we are not going to be breathing slowly and evenly when we are in the presence of a danger. We’re going to be breathing heavily with our mouths open.
When we become anxious, our breathing becomes faster. When we become anxious, we breathe a lot
The solution? – Breathing through the nose with the mouth closed
In order to minimise the severity of anxiety symptoms, breathing through the nose can help. The reason being is because breathing through the nose whilst taking slow and even breaths sends a signal back to our brain that we are calm.
Remember, how we behave has a direct pathway back to our Limbic system (emotional brain).
If we are breathing very heavy and in a rapid manner through the mouth, our brain gets the signal that we must be in a stressful/dangerous situation, so the fight/flight response is activated to keep us safe.
Here’s an exercise I would like you to try… (of course, you don’t have to).
Sitting up straight in a chair, with your mouth closed, I want you to take a small, gentle breath in through the nose with your mouth closed and then gently breathe out through the nose with your mouth closed.
At the end of the exhalation, pinch your nose (close off the nostrils with thumb and index finger) and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this process for about 5 minutes.
I also recommend practicing this 3 – 5 times through the day, every single day. You can just get a timer and time it for 5 minutes.
What this exercise does is it helps you to re-balance your carbon dioxide and oxygen levels which become imbalanced when breathing through the mouth, especially when it’s heavy and rapid. It also retrains your respiratory system to revert back to correct breathing.
You probably won’t notice much of a difference to begin with. Maybe not for a while. Notice how you feel. It’s possible, in fact, nearly certain to feel strange to begin with.
Especially if you have a habit of breathing through your mouth. You might feel a little internally claustrophobic like I did to begin with.
We take in more oxygen when we are breathing through our mouths so it’s going to feel weird when we have our mouths closed. Fear not, this will pass as you begin to practice. How long? Within a few days, several at the maximum.
However, correcting our breathing definitely does play a big part in helping us to reduce the severity of our anxiety sensations and symptoms. You will feel calmer and more in control when you practice correct breathing on a regular basis. That’s if we stick to the practice.
Here are some of the videos that I find useful:
Through acceptance and surrender, redirecting our focus (activity immersion) and correct breathing (through the nose), we can be armed with some powerful ‘weapons’ in the “fight” against anxiety.
If you have any questions about this breathing method, feel free to let me know.
Until next time