Do you forever feel like you’re tired? Perhaps you feel like the weight of the world sits on your shoulders because they’re so darn tight? Maybe, just maybe, you’re a habitual teeth grinder – in your sleep, of course.
Listen up, lady, because all these things have something in common – and it’s not stress. In fact, it’s the way in which you breathe. According to experts, not getting enough oxygen can contribute to a plethora of health problems including asthma and lung disease. What’s interesting is that even though the area our lung tissue would cover if spread out is the size of tennis court, we only use about a third of our lungs, reports Healthista.
In the short-term, this makes breathing “harder for our bodies than it needs to be,” physiotherapist Lizzie Flude told the wellness website, and in the long-term can lead to a host of everyday issues. “Over time, it can lead to chronic tiredness, slumped shoulders and a habitually tense back, neck and shoulders as the rest of the body tries to aid the lungs in getting more air in,” she said.
So, how do you know that you’re not breathing correctly? If you display one or more of the following symptoms, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a psychophysiologist at Capio Nightingale Hospital told Healthista, it’s an indication that you’ve got it wrong.
Sighing more than usual
Cause – Habitually holding breath.
Apparently if you’re consistently deep sighing, your body is instinctively trying to make up for the lack of oxygen that holding the breath leads to.
Cause – Shallow breathing.
Sure, you could well be tired if you’re yawning more than usual, but you could also be breathing incorrectly. When we’re relaxed, Ramlakhan said that we take about five to eight breaths a minute, however a shallow breather can take anything from 10 to 20, with most being from the chest.
Grinding your teeth
Cause – Stress and shallow breathing.
According to the psychophysiologist, shallow breathing and teeth grinding are both symptoms of stress. “In about 40 per cent of the chronically stressed or mentally ill people I see, tooth grinding and breathing inefficiently go hand in hand,” she said.
Tight neck and shoulder
Cause – Chest breathing.
If muscle tightness around the neck and shoulders isn’t related to recent exercise or injury, apparently your breathing could be to blame. Ramlakhan explained: “When you breathe only into your chest, the muscles in the neck, shoulders and back will attempt to ‘chip in’ and help the body breathe deeper so the lungs get more air.”
Always feeling tired
Cause – Inefficient breathing.
Did you know that one of the theories behind chronic fatigue syndrome is incorrect breathing? Yep, “if people breathe inefficiently they use as little as 20 per cent of their lung capacity leaving other muscles such as the back, neck and shoulders making more effort to fill the lungs,” said Ramlakhan.
What’s more, breathing incorrectly means that you aren’t getting enough of one of the three essentials needed for energy – oxygen, food and water, she continued.
How to breathe easy
Healthista recommends that you follow these exercises three times a week for three weeks if you want to change your breathing technique. The aim of the exercises is to breathe deeply and slowly, and in and out through your nose. Also, your breath should come from your diaphragm, not your chest. Before starting the exercises, make sure you’re sitting on a chair or lying on the floor and remember to keep your body warm to relax the respiratory muscles.
Notice your breathing
Close your eyes, bring your attention inwards and pay attention to the movement of your chest, shoulders and belly while you breathe. Notice where your breathing is coming from.
Open your breathing
Straighten your torso, roll your shoulders back and relax your body ensuring that your tongue is on the roof of your mouth – surprisingly, we hold a lot of tension in our mouths. If you are sitting, make sure your chin is parallel to the floor.
Deepen your breathing
The purpose of this is to breathe more fully and deeply. Upon breathing out, prolong your exhalation by a few seconds by pulling your stomach in towards your spine. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed at all times.
Slow down your breathing
After each inhalation and exhalation, pause for a second or two before starting again. This will help to slow and deepen your breathing.
Images via andreabeaman.com