There are so many things in life that we tend to overlook or take for granted. The sun will rise every day, the electricity will always be there, and water will flow from the faucet when we open it. The same is true for the things that happen inside our own bodies. From that aspect, perhaps nothing is more overlooked than the mechanism that provides us with oxygen and the ability to live. Our lungs fill with air without us even having to think about it. You can be doing a myriad of tasks while your diaphragm and other muscles work silently to pump the air in and out of your lungs. Truthfully, it is quite natural for us to simply pay no attention to how we breathe or whether proper breathing technique even exists. After all, it is something we never had to learn, so we must be hard wired to breathe correctly, right? Well, despite it being an automatic process, most people have a hard time breathing correctly. Oxygen may get into the lungs just the same, but the technique used to accomplish this can be problematic. The truth is that incorrect breathing technique has far reaching implications which can lead to many issues inside the body. Whether you are looking to optimize performance or just trying to stay healthy, you’ll want to bone up on how your breathing technique might be limiting your efforts.

 

Sympathetic Tone

One big reason that people have a hard time breathing properly would be the dominance of sympathetic tone in their body. Whether it be stress from work, school, lifestyle, or even working out, most people are constantly in a sympathetic state with regard to their nervous system. This can wreak havoc on many processes in the body including the way we breathe. Normally, the diaphragm should do the majority of the work in opening the lungs for ventilation. It may not look aesthetically pleasing, but your stomach should stick out when you take a breath. You may have noticed, however, that most people don’t stick their belly out when breathing. This is because the diaphragm is not the only muscle that is capable of opening up the lungs. The muscles between the ribs along with certain muscles in the neck can also be used to allow air into the lungs by way of lifting the rib cage up.

Now it is normal for people to use the “accessory” muscles to help them breathe during exercise or other tasks where heavy breathing is required. In fact, this is an automatic response from the brain in order to get more air into the lungs as oxygen demand increases. However, you will find that many people have habituated toward using these accessory muscles even during times of rest. Rather than use the diaphragm to do the trick (belly breathing), they rely on their neck muscles to open the chest to allow air into the lungs (chest breathing).

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