Breathing… If you’re in good health, there’s a good chance you do this quite without thinking. But are you doing it properly? You’ve clearly mastered the essentials, but could you be breathing better? There are several things you can do to improve your breathing, from deep breathing exercises and yoga, to eating healthily and singing, all of which can have a positive impact on your health. Here we look at how a few adjustments and positive lifestyle changes can help you to breathe better and support your respiratory system.
Learn to breathe properly
First things first, let’s look at what you should be doing. If you’re breathing effectively, your breath will be steady and controlled. Your abdomen area will expand with each inhalation and contract with each exhalation, and you’ll feel your ribs expand to the front, sides, and back with each inhalation. As babies we instinctively know what to do but from the age of about three, we forget how to breathe. Many of us use only a third of our lungs when we inhale, which can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and lethargy. It can also affect our sleep.
Better breathing techniques
There are plenty of ways to breathe more deeply. One approach is the five-six-seven breathing method: breathe in through your nose for a count of five, hold that breath for a count of six, then exhale through your mouth for a slow count of seven. Repeat until you feel calm and connected.
Regular practice can help you to be in control of your breathing and promote feelings of relaxation and calm, better sleep, and give you more energy.
Exercise and breathing
Meditation and yoga can also calm your breathing. Just by taking the time to focus on your breath even without trying to control it, will automatically slow your breathing. This is good to remember for when you’re feeling stressed.
Singing is also a great breathing exercise, and one that is recommended by the British Lung Foundation to support lung health and enhance the ability to breathe .
Posture and sleep position
Good posture helps your chest, rib cage and diaphragm to expand fully, enabling you to breathe more effectively and efficiently.
How you sleep is also important. The trick is to keep your spine as straight as possible to help keep your airways open. One way to do this is to sleep on your side with your head elevated on a pillow, and a pillow between your legs. This position may also help with snoring.
Foods for better breathing
Can what you eat make a difference to your breathing? Yes! A nutritionally balanced and varied diet will not only help you to maintain a healthy weight, but certain foods, including fresh foods rich in antioxidants, contain essential nutrients to help prevent infections and keep your lungs healthy.
Raw garlic and onions, ginger, chilli peppers and cruciferous veggies are great for your heart and lungs.
Surround yourself with clean air
Finally, avoid pollutants, smoking and second-hand smoke especially, and environmental irritants. Gentle, regular exercise in the fresh air can work wonders for your breathing.