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What is optimal breathing?

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

And should I be concerned?

Optimal breathing means to utilize your diaphragm while breathing through your nose and take 8-12 breaths per minute. The diaphragm is a major muscle of respiration that is located below the lungs. Breathing through the nose allows you to take slow breaths and make lungs work efficiently.

It also facilitates nitric oxide intake that helps with oxygen transportation throughout your body. It prevents toxins and allergens from entering your body. The presence of nitric oxide in your body is responsible for many major functions. Some of these functions include:

· Reduction of inflammation

· Regulation of blood pressure

· Assisting memory

· Improving the quality of sleep

· Supporting the immune system

During optimal breathing, your diaphragm moves and helps massage and detoxify internal organs. It also moves lymphatic fluid through the body, which is essential for your immune system. This overall process helps to balance and maintain the body's optimal oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. This has a significant impact on your body’s other physiological processes too.

Importance of Optimal Breathing

There is a reason behind emphasizing the importance of optimal breathing that, to most of us, seems like something that we all do effortlessly and without even thinking. But the problem is that the optimal functioning of breathing is greatly affected by the stress that we experience every day in our homes and workplaces. Due to the stress that we all experience in our daily lives, our bodies can quickly go from rest and digest state to fight or flight mode like a press of a button. In our normal state, our nervous system is in charge, and our bellies are soft. Our gut functions normally along with all the other organs in our bodies that are working at the optimal rate. But when we are stressed, these normal and optimal functions of our body are disrupted and make optimal breathing difficult.

We have talked about what happens to our body when it is in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Our body prepares itself to flee something threatening or fight for survival. It’s a good thing for us if our body genuinely needs to flee from or fight something that is life-threatening. In the modern world, we are safe most of the time, yet our body perceives something to be of a threat that comes from our daily activities.

The poor use of the technology that we make to resolve daily challenges and stressful work environments increases the likelihood of experiencing screen apnea, in which due to stress, level of concentration, and poor posture, we hold your breath or breathe in a shallow manner while working. This gives our body a signal that we are in some sort of danger and releases stress hormones that set us up for a fight that never takes place. When this happens, we do not breathe effectively. It restrains the body from receiving ideal levels of oxygen and compromises our necessary ongoing bodily functions.

The Anatomy of Breathing

The obvious answer to why we breathe is that because we have to. But more precisely, it is because our cells require it, which is the basic unit of life. Every living being is composed of numerous cells. The oxygen that we breathe and nutrients that we eat derive energy that our cells require to perform their functions.

When we breathe, our body has proper functioning going on. The oxygen reaches our cells through tiny, thin-walled blood capillaries. Oxygen is delivered to the blood by heart and carried through hemoglobin present in the blood. These capillaries carry oxygen with blood and release it into our tissues in exchange for carbon dioxide. The oxygen-depleted blood is returned to the heart, where it is again oxygenated through the respiration process.

Do you see how the breathing process is an intricately orchestrated chain of events? It involves the coordination of many muscles that helps take a proper breath. Respiratory muscles have two functions; inspiration and expiration. Many people are dysfunctional during the inspiration function of respiration, which can lead to disorderly breathing and affect our health.

What Can Cause Disordered Breathing?

Many reasons can cause disordered breathing. Some of them are:

Bio-mechanical Reasons

· Abnormal movement patterns

· Postural issues

· Congenital defects (physical abnormality or disease by birth)

· Chronic mouth breathing

· Occupational hazards

· Cultural practices

Bio-chemical Reasons

· Metabolic disorders

· Lungs disease

· Fever

· Allergies

· Drugs (including caffeine, excessive use of aspirin, alcohol)

· Exercise

· Diet

· Heat

· Altitude (elevation, height)

Psychological Reasons

· Pain

· Stress

· Anxiety

· Depression

· Phobic avoidance

· Panic disorders

We have to allow our lungs to intake oxygen in a proper way to ensure our body functions normally.

Health Benefits of Breathing Properly

Building from the points above, let’s see the benefits of breathing properly.

· Breathing exercises help breathe properly and relax muscles. When you breathe properly and focus on the patterns that are created by your breathing, you will notice that it is almost impossible for your muscles to keep a significant amount of tension.

· It lowers blood pressure. When your muscles begin to relax, the blood vessels in your body dilate, which causes your blood pressure to start returning to the normal level.

· Proper breathing improves the delivery of oxygen to your body. Fresh oxygen that you inhale when you are relaxed and breathe deeply floods into every cell of the body that increases the function of your body systems. It improves your physical stamina and mental concentration.

· It improves detoxification in your body. Proper breathing habit helps the lymphatic system to function correctly. It supports the release of harmful toxins out of the body. This process cleanses the internal body and allows its energy to direct toward more productive functions.

· Breathing properly triggers the production of endorphins. This hormone helps relieve pain and induce the feeling of euphoria or happiness.

Monitor Air Quality

Pollution is a serious problem in modern life. People experience several breathing issues because of it. To breathe properly, monitor the air quality in the area where you work and live. Limit your exposure to the allergens that affect your breathing. When possible, avoid going to areas of heavy traffic. But most of the time, it is not possible to avoid such areas. In such a scenario, you should wear a mask while going to such places and also check the air quality when you go outside for exercise. In our next post we will provide some essential breathing exercises that could be life-changing for you....

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