Breathing is an essential part of being alive. But most of us do not breathe correctly. If you are tired, stressed, and have difficulty falling asleep, you are probably breathing incorrectly.
Take this very moment to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. What part of your body moved the most? If you answered shoulders, you are breathing incorrectly.
When your shoulders move up and down when breathing, that indicates that you are not using your main breathing muscle: the diaphragm. The diaphragm is this big muscle located under your rib cage. This muscle expands and contracts like a balloon when you breathe. And when you use the diaphragm, your stomach is the main moving body part.
Why is this so important, you ask. Well, when you don’t use your main breathing muscle, you are not breathing deep enough to allow for maximum intake of oxygen. When you don’t have enough oxygen, your body does not run as smoothly as it could. For instance, when a person breathes in pure oxygen, they feel a burst of energy and have a sense of euphoria (happiness, giddiness, relaxation). So imagine how energized and relaxed your could be if you only breathed in a bit deeper. You don’t need to buy a tank of pure oxygen to feel re-energized. Just breathe correctly.
And before I teach you all how to breathe correctly, take the time to notice how tense your shoulders are, how tired you feel, and how often you tend to sigh. A big reason your shoulders are tense if because you are using your neck and shoulder muscles to open of the rib cage to breathe rather than the diaphragm. You are tired because you are not getting enough nourishing oxygen into your body. You are sighing because sighing is a reaction to stress and when you sigh, you breathe in deeper and exhale fully.
How to breathe (do this exercise/meditation when you are in bed for the best practice and best quality of sleep):
- Lie on your back and place a heavy book (like a dictionary) right below your belly button
- This is so that you can feel how the diaphragm works
- If you still have difficulty feeling it, try lying on your stomach and take a couple of deep breaths
- When you breathe, try to keep your shoulders still and expand and contract your stomach
- You should be able to lift the book up and down
- It takes a bit of practice to get it right, but you will start to feel the difference
- Do this for several breaths
- Once you seem to have a handle on it, get rid of the book and do the following breathing meditation
Simple Breathing Meditation:
- Breathe in as deeply as you can and then exhale as much air out as you can
- A deep inhale and exhale is one breath
- Take 10 deep breaths.
- If you lose count, start counting back at one
- If you complete 10, start counting back at one
After doing this for a week, you will notice improved quality of sleep and wake up feeling more energized. You will also start to notice less tightness in your shoulders and neck. The longer you do this, you will start breathing this way without prompt.