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How Not To Take A Deep Breath

At one point or another, you have probably been instructed to “take a deep breath”. The benefits of deep breathing are tremendous- stimulation of the vagus nerve and therefore the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the mind and the body, easing anxiety and stress, while increasing digestive function, creative thought-processes, immune function, etc.

The problem, however, is how most of us take ‘deep breaths’. Usually, we take a fast, loud, big breath, through the mouth, and our chest expands and we get a little taller. Try it.

This is a great example of a BIG breath, but not necessarily a deep breath. It is otherwise known as “vertical” breathing.

The key to a proper deep breath is “horizontal” breathing. Here are the steps to an effective deep, horizontal breath:

1) Looking into a mirror, take a normal, clearing breath in and out through the nose.

2) Inhale and shrug the shoulders up, exhale and completely relax the shoulders down.

2) Slowly, quietly, begin to sip air through the nose, while keeping the shoulders completely relaxed. Look at your shoulders and chest in the mirror and try to see ZERO upwards movement. While your inhaling, you should feel the middle of your upper abdomen starting to engage. This is your diaphragm.

3) Equally as slowly, exhale through the nose quietly, letting the air out super slowly. Feel the abdomen contracting and empty fully out.

4) Repeat for 6-7 cycles of breath.

Eventually, instead of just feeling the centre of your belly expanding, the feeling should move laterally towards your outer ribs and then eventually backwards, out of your mid back. Think of a donut around your abdomen expanding outwards, 360 degrees. This is horizontal breathing and ensures your diaphragm is being fully engaged.

Ben Sluzar RMT, DOMP

Osteopathic Manual Therapy Practitioner

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