Have you ever paid attention to how you breathe? Did you know that most of us take shallow breaths throughout the day?

I didn’t realize that I breathed very shallowly until I listened to a presentation by a breathing coach.

I actually didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a breathing coach! But it makes sense after learning that I didn’t breathe properly myself. What is proper breathing?

This prompted me to take a deeper look into breathing and the impact on the physical, emotional and spiritual foundation.

 

How do I know I’m breathing shallow?

Let’s start with answering this question first. You’re breathing shallowly when your breath is not engaging your diaphragm. What you think is a deep breath, is not, the air you take in doesn’t get very far.

Here’s what I mean. When you take a big breath into your upper chest, it doesn’t get all the way down to the air sacs in the lungs (called the alveoli). The result is that the lungs are unable to access the oxygen in that air, and no matter how much air you breathe in, you feel breathless.

Shallow breathing is also fast breathing. When breathing is too fast, there’s not enough time for air to get deep into the lungs. The lungs are unable to extract sufficient oxygen from the air.

Fast breathing also results in the loss of too much carbon dioxide, which adds to feelings of breathlessness by reducing breathing efficiency and oxygen uptake. An example is a person having a panic attack and breathing fast which results in shortness of breath.

 

Why don’t we pay more attention to our breathing?

Isn’t it strange that breath is a symbol of life, yet, we don’t give it a second thought if we’re breathing right? Lack of breath signifies the end of life. Breathing should get our focus and attention, but we don’t even pay attention to it.

The Bible says: “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:7

This means that we became alive because of the breath of life that God breathed into our nostrils. So breathing is pretty important, right?

Focused attention is given to breathing only when the person suffers from some respiratory issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.

 

Here are some dangers to shallow breathing:

  • Reduced oxygen impairs thinking. A study done by Northwestern University found that there is a connection between breathing and cognitive function. It seems shallow breathing actually disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  • Increased blood pressure and increased heart rate. The increased blood pressure leads to an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, which is known to speed up aging, among other negative effects.
  • Prevents the body from utilizing the respiratory muscles. This often equates to reduced physical ability causing one to have less endurance and become winded faster.
  • Sleep issues, complicating fatigue due to not breathing effectively with respiratory muscles leading to exacerbation of pain like headaches, pain in the neck and the upper back due to the disengagement of the diaphragm.
  • Pain in the lower back and neck
  • Leaves the brain feeling foggy and muddled.
  • Chronic stress, poor posture and inadequate oxygenation which results in inhibiting the immune system. Long-term stress can cause the body to become more vulnerable to illness and take longer to recover and heal if you do get sick.
  • Fatigue and the flare-up of respiratory symptoms in people with asthma and rhinitis or during exercise
  • Long-term shallow breathing is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Anxiety, considered purely as a psychological disorder, can also be caused by shallow breathing, and there is a strong link between levels of blood carbon dioxide and susceptibility to panic attacks.

How serious is shallow breathing?

Wow! I couldn’t believe that shallow breathing is dangerous to our health in so many ways. Why has no one ever said anything about this? I am in my 60s and just finding out about it now. How about you? Did you really know all this? Can you say that you have been breathing properly as necessary to promote health?

Shallow breathing affects the way you sleep. Dysfunctional breathing during the day affects sleep and can lead to insomnia, snoring and even sleep apnea which is a serious condition in which the breathing stops periodically through the night causing disruption to the body’s ability to deliver adequate oxygen to the blood.

 

What is chronic stress?

Let’s talk a little more about stress being brought on by shallow breathing. Scientifically defined, stress is a physiological reaction to undesired physical or emotional situations. First, an acute reaction is triggered (we know this as “fight or flight”) which is then mediated by hormones including adrenaline.

When stress becomes chronic and lasts for a long time, the stressed body responds with physical/physiological changes. It gets used to the unfavorable condition which negatively affects the immune system and the way the brain regulates the interaction between the nervous system and the hormones. Stress is a common risk factor in 75 to 90% of all human diseases. 70+% of doctor visits are related to stress.

Many scientific studies support the assumption that development of chronic stress can be, at least in part, due to an increase in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and aging.

YIKES!

I think we get the message.

So what do we do?

Well, Deep breathing or breathing from the diaphragm is how we can reduce oxidative stress and prevent the increased levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.

We can also avoid the effects of shallow breathing on the muscles, causing tension and bringing on headaches, jaw pain, neck and back pain and other chronic symptoms.

Researching this topic made me pay attention, the question is, will I start breathing better? I will definitely talk to the breathing coaches that I know and get help because shallow breathing has become second nature and if I am to improve, I need to know how to breathe in the correct way.


Breathless no more!

I wasn’t going to expand this into talking about the benefits of deep breathing, but I think it’s important to clue you in to the difference between shallow breathing and breathing that prevents disease and promotes health just to get started.

Deep breathing from the diaphragm is much healthier than shallow, upper chest breathing. By learning to breathe from the diaphragm, you can enjoy the benefits of deep breathing including better lung health (great for skin health), and a more relaxed mind (supports emotional health).

Breathing is more efficient when it is slower, this is because the air spends more time in the lungs and has more time to reach the alveoli (the small air sacs) where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place.

In one research study, scientists demonstrated breathing at 6 breaths per minute is 20% more efficient in terms of blood oxygenation. Breathing more slowly (and therefore deeply) gets more oxygen to your cells and organs including your brain.

 

Here are some benefits of deep breathing

Physical Benefits to Health:

When you breathe gently and slowly from your diaphragm you experience the following benefits of deep breathing:

  • Promote the habit of slow respiration
  • Draw air deep into the lungs
  • Improve exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide for maximum breathing efficiency
  • Generate intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) for postural control and spinal stabilization
  • Support functional breathing for functional movement
  • Better heart rate variability
  • Better heart-breath coherence
  • More resilient, adaptable blood pressure
  • Better oxygenation of the tissues and organs
  • A healthy cardiovascular system
  • Better lung health
  • Optimum levels of carbon dioxide in the arterial blood

Additionally, scientific studies have found therapeutic applications for diaphragm breathing in conditions including:

  • Depression (including ‘comorbid’ depression in people who are unable to take antidepressants due to conditions like bipolar disorder. A comorbid illness is an illness that exists alongside another disease, but is not necessarily related to it)
  • Emotional/mood regulation
  • Blood sugar control in diabetes
  • Seizure frequency in epilepsy or people with non-epileptic seizures (hyperventilation is a known trigger for seizures)
  • Hiatal hernia and gastric reflux
  • Sexual dysfunction (particularly erectile dysfunction in men, though there is currently a dearth of research into sexual dysfunction in women)
  • Core strength and balance, less risk of injury
  • Back and neck pain
  • Urinary incontinence following prostate surgery in men
  • Stuttering and speech disorders

Emotional/Mental Health Benefits:

  • Mental calmness and resilience
  • Calm your mind and enjoy a greater feeling of relaxation
  • Regulation of the relaxation response
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, in part due to its influence on the vagus nerve. This allows your body to slow down, rest and heal.
  • The vagus nerve secretes a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger) called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine slows the heart rate, triggering relaxation. This supports physical and mental resilience
  • Boosts your focus, concentration, memory and learning ability, prevents or reduces cognitive decline in elderly people and supports your mental health.

Spiritual Health Benefits:

Finally, last but not least, my spiritual foundation is the reason I am able to push through the grief and sorrow that is within me like a deep festering wound that will never heal. Only by the grace of God and His abiding love and providence, have I been able to overcome. For this reason I must continue to share and emphasize our need to have a strong spiritual foundation.

Honoring God and praising Him for His gift of breath through song and prayers brings us closer to Him. As a follower of Jesus, I strive to grow and nurture my intimate relationship with Him daily. Acknowledging and thanking God is not for the benefit of God, it’s for our spiritual health. When the spiritual foundation is strong, we are able to “weather the storm” easier knowing that we are safe and will be victorious against our circumstances no matter what because God is going through it with us.

 

Remember: breath in the body means life. Take care that you breathe well to maintain a long and healthy life for your body.

  • Psalm 150:6 “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”
  • Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
  • John 20:22 “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.””
  • Job 27:3 “As long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,”
  • Ezekiel 37:9 “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.””

I don’t think I did this topic justice but I also didn’t want to overwhelm. Sometimes, too much information stops people from moving forward.

 

My recommendations to get started with better breathing today:

  1. Aromatherapy: I find doTERRA’s Breathe (Respiratory Blend) is a great blend to diffuse and to apply on the bottom of the feet and chest. My favorite use is to add a drop into the palm of my hand, rub my hands together to warm up the oil and disperse the aroma, then make a little cup with both hands and bring my nose close to inhale deeply. Click HERE to order the Breathe blend (you will also receive a 25% off discount) or text me at 714-746-7411 to order this extraordinary blend, or if you need help with this technique.
  2. Breath Coaching: My breathing Coach and friend, Rachel Bhagat, offers a free gift. Check it out here: https://wellnesspowerslife.com

Thank you for making time to read this article. It’s longer than I intended but I felt a need to expand on it to impress upon us all the importance of breathing right. If you benefited, please let me know and check out my other articles relating to establishing a graceful aging journey by optimizing your physical, emotional and spiritual foundations at https://www.gracefulwellnessco.com/blog.

 

Rachel Bhagat of Wellness Power Life™ Live Well, Live Powerful, Live Whole: https://wellnesspowerslife.com

 

*Disclosure: I only recommend products that I use for myself, my family, my friends, and my clients. All opinions expressed here are my own and based on my personal experience. Some of the links listed may earn me a small commission, but will not incur any additional cost to you.

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About Grace
Hi, I’m Grace. I’m a Clinical Aromatherapist, Face Reflexologist, and AromaDermatologist helping women of all ages feel confident in their health and beauty again. Through my complimentary Skin Analysis + Discovery Call, I lead women troubled with their physical, emotional, and spiritual health to regain their health and beauty. Find me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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