Or should you rather hold your breath?

A new look at research seems to show that we overbreathe. One theory for this is that our breathing became obstructed due to changes in our facial structure a few hundred years ago, due to a change in our diet – everything became softer and easier to chew. This led to our jaws becoming smaller, teeth overcrowded and our airways becoming obstructed – cue mouth breathing, leading to sleep apnoea, asthma, hypertension and anxiety.

Other than visiting a specialist orthodontist willing to widen your mouth (which is possible and seemingly highly effective for patients with sleep apnoea and even asthma).

What can you do to improve your breathing?

Eating Start with eating chewier food – unrefined and more wholefoods to keep your jaw as strong as possible. Definitely make sure your children are eating an unrefined diet to prevent underdevelopment of the jaw in the first place.

Breathing – Observe your breath for a moment, without forcing it – where does it go, does it change? Are you breathing into your nose or mouth? Can you breathe into your belly and blow it up big and full? Does it help to sit up straight? Can you expand your ribs like bellows? Flop down and feel how the breath moves to the chest.

Puppy Pose Breathing Practice – Start a regular breathing practice – even three to five minutes a day will make a difference. The ideal breath seems to be 5.5 seconds in and 5.5 seconds out. Breath in through the nose (that warms, cleans and moisturises air) slowly filling up the belly and ribs and exhale fully (via your nose or mouth). Make sure this is happening in good postural alignment so your belly and ribs have space to expand; sitting or standing tall with the pelvis, ribs, shoulders and head neatly stacked. Try this against the wall so you can feel exactly where ‘straight’ is.

Stretch – Try a 5-minute stretch programme to keep the upper back and ribs mobile – give yourself a hug and twist from side to side, get into puppy pose (below) and ‘thread the needle’.

Other modified cat and camel yoga poses are in the programme I give my clients to aid upper back and rib cage mobility. Other techniques that can be taught to improve breathing include ‘combing’ through the ribs while in the shower to keep the connective tissue around the ribs and the muscles between the ribs supple.

Good breathing practice also calms the nervous system and lowers cortisol levels – the “stress hormone”. Slowing your breathing and fully exhaling can have great effects on your health.

Please do get in touch if you would like to improve your breathing.


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