As I mentioned in a previous post, breathing from your diaphragm is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. Unfortunately, in America, we are taught from a young age to hold our stomachs in and breathe from the chest (girls are particularly vulnerable to this!). Holding the stomach in for extended periods of time causes the person to start contracting the belly and expanding the chest with every inhale. This is called reverse breathing and it can have multiple negative effects on your body.
Here’s a great illustration of the three differences between the two of ways to breathe.
What does reverse breathing do to your mind and body?
Breathing from your chest instead of the diaphragm can cause a number of issues.
Constantly holding your stomach in, whether you are physically doing it or wearing constricting clothes, can cause:
- Digestive ailments like indigestion, heartburn, bloating and gas because the organs in the stomach are being squeezed
- Upper body tension, specifically in the back of your neck, jaw, upper shoulders and back,
- Coordination problems because your breathing pattern has been reversed and it cannot support your muscles properly
- Occasional confusion and/or disorientation as your body isn’t given the opportunity to get the maximum amount of air it needs to function at its best.
Are you a reverse breather?
As I mentioned earlier reverse breathing is a common problem in the United States, and could possibly be the biggest threat to our health as a nation.
To know if you are a reverse breather, all you have to do is look at the front of your body in the mirror. Your belly should expand with each inhale and contract with every exhale; if your belly contacts on the inhale and expands on the exhale, you’re a reverse breather.
Fixing the problem
Luckily, this breathing pattern can be reversed, no pun intended, if you give yourself some time to practice these two tools:
- In your spare time, consciously try to get the belly to expand when you inhale – after 30-60 seconds, step back and see how you feel
- SLOW DOWN – many people get stuck in a reverse breathing pattern when they try to do to much
Reverse breathing is a common problem that can be easily resolved with time and patience with yourself (this is important!). I was a reverse breather for my entire childhood and about 5 years into adulthood – I’m now 31 – and I feel so much better!! Even if you can only practice correct breathing for 5 minutes a day, it is so worth the effort, and your body will thank you in many different ways.
I’d love to hear what you think of this breathing pattern and/or if you’ve tried the correcting exercises.