he first step of the Essential Breath™ program is to master breathing mechanics, that is the way we breathe in and out. Who would have thought this matters or that it's important? It turns out to be really important.
Breathing mechanics are the fundamentals of using our breath for better health. Breathing from the wrong place, using the wrong breathing muscles, yes there are multiple ones, or bringing air in through the wrong orifice can affect our health. Getting our breathing mechanics correct begins the process of relieving the symptoms of many common health problems.
There are four elements of breathing mechanics include:
The breath should start with the nose for reasons I'll explain in a moment. Unfortunately, many people breathe through their mouth, which may be harmful to your body. Most all of us are born nasal breathers but chronic nasal congestion, injuries to the nose and problems in the nasal passages (adenoids, deviated septum, polyps, etc.) force the mouth open so we can breathe.
The nose is the organ designed for breathing air into the body. The mouth is designed for talking and eating. The nose has the job of preparing inhaled air for our fussy lungs, which insist on getting clean, humid and warm air. Here a few factoids about the nose. The nose:
The first goal of the Essential Breath™ program is to open up the nasal passage and restart nasal breathing 24x7. We employ breathing techniques designed first to temporarily open the nasal passages, similar to how an over-the counter drug would do the same, and then secondly, keep those nasal passages open all the time. Yes, how you breathe can open up your nose and keep you breathing through it.
There are two sets of breathing muscles in the body, the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles, the muscles between the ribs. These muscles are designed to squeeze and release the lungs, creating a negative force that sucks in and pushes out the air we breathe.
The primary and most important breathing muscle is the diaphragm. In fact, the intercostal muscles were designed as a backup system and to support breathing during intense aerobic exercise. The intercostal muscle really only work on the top one-third of the lungs, the smallest part. The diaphragm works all of the lungs, making breathing much more efficient.
You can easily check to see if you are a "chest breather" or a "diaphragmatic breather" by standing sideways to a mirror. Look to see if you chest and/or shoulders are moving as you breathe or if your belly is moving. The source of your breathing should be from the area, known as the solar plexus, just above your belly button.
The second goal of the Essential Breath™ program is to anchor your breathing from your diaphragm and stop all chest breathing. There is a very simple breathing technique which usually changes chest breathers into diaphragmatic breathers in a few days.
Tied to correct diaphragmatic breathing is making sure the diaphragm is free to do its job. This is where good posture comes into play.
Given personal computer usage and ways of doing physical labor, we see more and more people with a forward leaning posture, that is the head and the shoulders tilt forward. When this happens, the stomach and other organs of the abdomen are pushed up against the diaphragm so it can't contract and move the lungs.
The next goal of the the Essential Breath™ program is to work to ensure a correct and erect body posture is maintained. Awareness and a couple of simple techniques quickly get the body posture corrected and the diaphragm working.
Breathing Rate, Volume and Rhythm
The final goal of the Essential Breath™ program is to adjust our breathing rate, how often we breathe, volume, the amount of air we breathe with each breath, and rhythm of the breath. While the previous breathing mechanics goals can be addressed consciously through awareness and technique, rate, volume and rhythm can only be address at the root of your breathing, the breathing center of your brain. This requires some special techniques used in Step 2 and Step 3 of the Essential Breath™ program.