Our lungs are one of our vital organs and responsible for bringing oxygen into our body and expelling carbon dioxide waste. Our lungs allow the transfer of oxygen into our blood stream to keep our body alive and functioning.
The issue with most people in today's busy, non-stop, stressful society, is that we don't use our lungs to their full capacity. Our lungs can be split into upper and lower lobes, when we are stressed we tend to take rapid shallow breathes only using the upper lobe. This also creates tension in our neck muscles, particularly our scalenes, sternocleidomastoids (SCM), upper traps, and levator sacapula. Missing out on filling the entire lung means the oxygen transfer into our blood stream isn't as good as it could be.
Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises (DBE) is a great way to:
- fill your entire lung field, upper and lower, with oxygen rich air.
- improve control of your diaphragm and core muscles
- relax the tension in your upper neck and shoulder muscles
- decrease stress and promote relaxation
DBE are simply to practice and perform. To start, lie on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly button. As you inhale your lower hand on your belly should rise as your upper hand stays still. Allow your lower rib cage to expand outward and belly to fill with air. Pay close attention to your rib cage as well, when you inhale does it flare out towards the ceiling? If so, try keeping the rib cage controlled downward as you breathe in. These exercises can also be done in sitting at the desk or standing on the subway, as you become comfortable you can remove your hands.
So when you're feeling stressed out, take some time to practice a few deep breathes, your entire body will thank you. We take about 22,000 breathes per day, let's make them all count!