Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced muscle tension in your upper back, neck or shoulders. Ok good. Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever had a dizzy spell or felt exhausted for no reason. Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced anxiety. Most of you have raised your hand and I know mine went up, too. While the fact that many of us experienced these symptoms is not a surprise, but the cause of them might be. These, and other signs and symptoms like panic attacks, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and even phobias, may be attributed to what’s known as a Breathing Pattern Disorder.
What is a Breathing Pattern Disorder? It’s a complex set of behaviors that leads to over breathing in the absence of a pathological condition (Fritz, 2004). Basically, it’s when you are breathing is inappropriate for the circumstance. This confuses the central nervous system and sets off a whole chain of events.
When you breathe as if you are in a high-alert situation, the upper chest muscles and neck muscles engage, contracting with every breath. The body shuts down non-vital functions such as digestion, sleep, and reproduction. You can become hyperalert and hyper-responsive to your environment. This biochemical reaction has an impact on every system of the body. Do this for long enough and the body will adapt accordingly, eventually moving into and exhaustion phase.
But what to do? Learn to Belly Breathe! Belly breathing is when you use your diaphragm to inhale and exhale instead of your upper chest. When you use belly breathe/diaphragm breathing, you will inflate your diaphragm with your breathe. This will cause your belly to expand. Then when you exhale, your belly will deflate. This is the pattern of breathing your body takes on in the relaxed state. In order to do this, you must:
- Begin by placing your tongue on the back of your top row teeth where they meet the gums. Maintain a gentle placement of your tongue there for the duration of this exercise
- Slowly inhale through your nose, inflating your belly
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8, pursing your lips, like you are blowing through a straw or blowing out candles, deflating your belly
- Repeat this for 20-30 breathes. Do this exercise twice a day
This videos and technique is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent, fix or heal any type of medical condition or disease. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any conditions.