Do you remember when you were kids riding in the back seat of a long car ride and you would have a little competition with your friend to see who would hold their breath the longest?
If yes, you probably haven’t had that competition since then.
Little did you know you were doing the most basic lung exercises for improving lung capacity.
In our last article, we discussed The Chest Breathing vs. Abdominal Breathing Controversy.
We clearly demonstrated the advantages of ditching the Chest-Stress Breath to Survive and train yourself to breathe with the Diaphragm-Abdominal Breath to Thrive.
In this article, we will discuss how breathing exercises improve lung capacity which will provide a ready, steady supply of oxygen to your seven trillion cells crying out for help.
Commit to Training Your Diaphragm Muscle
Answer your bodies cry by committing to use the Diaphragm muscle as your primary source for sucking air into your lungs, and blowing carbon dioxide out of your body.
This is the “Primary” exercise for a Thriving Life.
Any “Exercise” program worth its salt will begin with breath training.
Regardless if you are a “Tele-Tubby” slouched on the couch digging deep into your consciousness for the motivation to get up and start living.
Or, a seasoned athlete reaching for the gold medal.
Or, anyone in between would benefit from retraining yourself to breathe with your diaphragm until it becomes natural again.
You’ve Done It Before…You Can Do It Again
That’s right, there was a time when you naturally breathed with your diaphragm.
Way back when you were an infant. Focus your mind’s eye on the last time you saw a baby lying on their back sleeping.
So precious, so peaceful, so calm. The only thing moving was their belly going up and down, up and down.
It is the cutest thing in the whole world.
That motion occurs when the diaphragm muscle is used in a natural breath. The babe has no stress or worries that causes them to go into stress-chest breathing. Not yet anyway.
Stress breath begins around three years old when you experience your first nightmare. You wake up in fear, crying, gasping for breath, aware for the first time “Something” is out to get you.
Then, at six or seven you are playing outside and a dog tears after you. Your Fight or Flight system kicks in, terrified and screaming for all you are worth, you run away as fast as your little legs will carry you. Chest heaving, tears streaming.
Then, you are a young teen and the other kids snear, and snicker, pointing their stubby little fingers at you. And you feel lost, forlorn, abandoned, and fearful.
Then, university testing or the new boss heaps more stress onto your life. Stress-chest breathing has long since become the norm. The result is poor posture, poor health, spiraling down, down, down.
All because you weren’t fortunate enough to be trained to return to the natural, peaceful, belly breath of your beginnings.
Reconnect With Your Diaphragm
Now is the time to begin training yourself to breathe with your diaphragm.
Time to “Re-connect Your Conscious Thinking Brain with Your Physical Body, through Focus, Breath, and Full Range of Motion.”
Train like your life depends on it. Train for the Health of It.
Begin Your Training:
By looking down at your torso, or into a mirror if one is handy. Place your hands on your abdomen, blow all the air out of your lungs enlisting your abdominal muscles to contract towards the spine.
Now, breathe into your hands. You will see your hands rise as the belly moves out
- When you breathe in
- The belly goes out
That’s how you know you are using the diaphragm muscle to draw air into the lungs.
Getting to know the diaphragm muscle is different than other muscles. We don’t really feel it contract like other skeletal muscles. It doesn’t get sore when overused.
Mostly we know we are using it by noticing the results of the belly moving out and the lungs expanding from the inside. The diaphragm covers a large area. It separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.
It transects all the way through the torso, and when it contracts, air is sucked into the lungs, when it relaxes carbon dioxide is forced out. Contracting and relaxing the diaphragm muscle is natural peaceful breathing which promotes good health.
Okay, now we have the basic principle, “Breathe In-Belly Out.” Now let’s expand on this principle.
4 Valuable Breathing Techniques
Improving health always begins with
Reconnecting the Conscious Thinking Brain with the Physical Body through Focus, Breath, Full Range of Motion.
Train 10 to 20 minutes daily.
Or, at minimum three days a week to reinstall the connection. We begin re-connection with these techniques:
#1 Count to Capacity Breath
Consciously focus on inhaling with the diaphragm muscle.
Contract it, feeling/watching the abdomen distend.
Fill the lungs to full capacity.
Yes, when completely filling the lungs you will notice the chest expanding as the air fills the alveoli.
This is not the same as stress-chest breathing
- Inhale for 6s (or to where you are comfortable)
- Hold the breath for 6s.
- Exhale completely for 6s.
- Then 7 seconds, 8 seconds, 9 seconds, 10… each time seeing how high can you go.
Ok now focus on this it’s fun to try:
- Feel the lungs fill from the bottom, up, and exhale from the top, down.
- Then see if you can fill from the top, down, and exhale from the bottom, up.
Play with your breath! Seriously.
Generally, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling out the mouth. Have fun exploring the different breaths that can be made, like the
#2 Staccato Breath
Staccato Breathing is when you inhale through the nose a small volume of air, and quickly with forceful contraction of the lower abdominal muscles expel the air rapidly for 10, then 15, then 20 or more repetitions.
- Through your nose- inhale quickly
- Rapidly exhale through your mouth
- Repeat in and out starting at 10 breaths, three rounds
- Then 15, then 20 breaths and so on playing with the routine.
Feel and see your belly expanding and contracting rapidly.
Or, you can incorporate Huff Breathing into your routine.
#3 Huff Breathing
It’s the same principle as Staccato Breath only instead of small amounts of air, you inhale and exhale huge amounts of air rapidly.
- Fill the lungs completely through the mouth.
- Exhale completely, through the mouth continue for 10 breaths.
- Then hold the air in the lungs until you naturally breath again.
- Then Huff Breathe again for t
As the weeks of training go by, increase to 15, then 20, then 30 breaths for three sets.
You’ll notice you hold your breath longer, and longer, without strain or dizziness.
You have begun training to increase your lung capacity to supply the single most important nutrient to every cell of your body.
You are beginning to Breathe to Thrive.
#4 Core-Resistance Breathing.
- Contract the pelvic floor muscles, aka. lower ab muscles
- Contract the diaphragm muscle by breathing against the core muscle contraction. It will be a short breath, a small amount of air in the nose, out the mouth. Connect the conscious thinking brain with the diaphragm muscle. Do as many as you are comfortable doing.
This resistance will strengthen the most valuable muscle for supplying the single most important nutrient, oxygen, to every cell of your body.
Not to mention give you a good ab workout!
For the Health of It
Reconnecting your conscious thinking brain with your diaphragm muscle, training that muscle to be flexible and strong will lead to increased lung capacity, which leads to a ready, steady supply of oxygen to every single cell that makes you, you.
Now that you can take a decent breath let’s discuss how to focus that breath on the parts of your body that are restricted from functioning normally. We will then train to move through those restrictions increasing your flexibility, allowing you to become more of who you are, and less of who you are not.
Join us for our next discussion about how “Stretches Increase Flexibility,” and the importance of flexibility to your good health.
Any questions or comments feel free to leave them below. I will do my best to answer them.
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