Breathing: You’ve Been Doing it Wrong All Along!
Well, probably not all along. If you watch a baby breathing, they tend to use their nose (if they’re not crying) and there is a gentle rise and fall of their abdomen, with very little chest movement. Before long, we begin exposure to allergens causing many to have nasal congestion, forcing mouth breathing. We are told to “suck in our stomach” which forces the diaphragm to be rigid and leads to upper chest breathing, or sometimes even paradoxical breathing where the abdomen moves in with the inhale and out with the exhale, opposite to good breathing mechanics.
“Modern” changes in paediatric nutrition and a reliance on processed foods means we don’t develop sucking and chewing with force, causing a lack of good airway development. There is little interest or understanding of good breath mechanics on the part of conventional medicine AND most alternative practitioners, coaches and instructors. All of this leads to a population with very poor functional breathing and high rates of breathing pattern disorders, which negatively affects virtually every aspect of health and performance.
Dr. Paul Sly
Medical Acupuncturist, Oxygen Advantage Certified Instructor
Dr. Paul Sly is a Chiropractor and certified Oxygen Advantage Instructor trained by founder and author Patrick McKeown.
Paul has a general practice where he treats an active population of people from all walks of life, from children to adults, including weekend warriors, NHL hockey players, professional and elite level Powerlifters, Strongmen and Strongwomen competitors.
Paul uses functional breathing and wellness education and techniques to help individuals, organizations and corporations reduce stress, anxiety and burnout, and increase focus, attention and mental and physical performance – improving the health of the individual and the organization.
Paul works one on one and in small and large group settings, customizing the education and training to suit the individual needs of the client or organization.
The lack of interest and understanding of breathing has led to the development of modern “Breath Myths” as outlined by Robin Rothenberg in her book Restoring Prana. These myths need to be deconstructed in order to appreciate what good functional breathing is.
“THE MORE WE BREATHE THE HEALTHIER WE ARE”
Similar to caloric intake, there is a “right amount of air.” A healthy person averages 10-12 breaths and 4-6 litres of air per minute. Studies have shown individuals with various diseases and conditions breathe at a rate of 15-20 breaths and 10-15 litres of air per minute.
“TAKING A BIGGER BREATH OXYGENATES US MORE”
When we take bigger breaths than our current metabolism demands, we blow off too much carbon dioxide (CO2). The problem is CO2 is a vasodilator, opening up our blood vessels and improving blood flow, and it is also necessary to drive oxygen from the hemoglobin on our red blood cells into the tissues that need it. So when we breathe big and blow off too much CO2, we decrease blood flow and oxygen delivery to the cells that need it. As an example, 30 seconds of hyperventilating decreases blood flow to the brain by almost 50%!
Healthy breathing is in and out through the nose, engaging the diaphragm, at a rate and volume matching the current metabolic needs of the body. If you are at rest, your breathing should be quiet, with little or no movement of the upper chest and neck muscles. Your breathing should only increase on pace with your increasing activity levels, and as you approach maximum effort you may need to mouth breath for short periods. The concept of “breathing gears” from Brian Mackenzie and the Human Health and Performance Institute can be helpful.
Most athletes and individuals who have not been trained in proper breathing shift from gear 1 to gear 5 and stay there. This results in inefficient breathing. The energy used by the breathing muscles is disproportionately high, and we blow off too much CO2, hampering our ability to use the oxygen we are sucking in through our mouths.
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