by Peter James Field
Most of us spend little or no time in consciously controlling our breathing
In fact for the majority of people, breathing is simply an automatic process that happens unconsciously. Unfortunately, this includes breathing in an unhealthy way.
Most of us are only too well aware of our own body's need for oxygen. Without it we would very quickly become unconscious and die.
Yet despite popular opinion, carbon dioxide is as essential to life as oxygen.
When we breathe in an incorrect manner, we automatically lessen the amount of carbon dioxide available to us and this can have a really harmful affect on our body - and our mind.
The point is that if there is not enough carbon dioxide in the blood then this creates 'alkaline blood', which causes restriction of the blood vessles.
And this in turn allows less oxygen to reach the vital organs.
Improper breathing which decreases carbon dioxide in our bodies can produce a whole array of health problems.
Included in these are cardiac problems, including 'angina' and palpitations.
The respitory functions may also be affected producing chest pain, shortness of breath and asthma. Also, muscular cramps, tremors and fibrositis may be experienced
As if this weren't enough, psychologically speaking, incorrect breathing that limits the amount of carbon dioxide available can create real tension, anxiety, sleep disturbances and a lack of concentration.
All of these things are good reasons for you to learn how to breathe in a proper and healthy way.
Here is an easy 5 step approach to breathing in a healthy way.
1. Inhale and exhale through the nose whenever possible, even during physical exercise. Because the nostrils are much smaller than the mouth, the volume of air is reduced.
2. Change from breathing with the chest to breathing with the abdomen or belly. An easy way to do this is to relax in a chair, put one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest and then breathe so that the hand on your chest hardly moves while the hand on your stomach rises and falls gently.
Once you have mastered this way of breathing, work on doing it while standing and then move on to learning how to use it when walking and moving around.
3. Focus on making your breathing shallow. Try to minimise the movement of the hand resting on your tummy.
4. Slow down your breathing so that you minimise it. The goal is to breathe somewhere around 6 to 8 breathes each minute - or about 1 every 10 seconds.
5. Work on developing a steady rhythm. This will cause you to stop holding your breath for irregular periods and then 'sighing'.
Practice breathing like this for a minimum of 3 times a day for at least 10 minutes.
It takes time to change anything as entrenched as our breathing habits, but with persistence you can certainly do it.
The effort really is worthwhile and, as the supply of oxygen to your body's vital organs improves so will your physical - and psychological health.
Peter Field is a leading English hypno-psychotherapist and author of many articles on psychotherapy, hypnosis and health. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health and Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
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