Breathing is so natural that few ever think twice about it. Most people actually have a tendency to hyperventilate (i.e. over breathe). Erratic or dysfunctional breathing alters the chemistry of the blood. This harms the body’s ability to maintain itself properly and contributes to many symptoms.
Hyperventilating or dysfunctional breathing can present as either:
- an increased breathing rate (>10 breaths/min)
- an increased volume of exhaled air (usually a result of breathing with the mouth open)
All of this hyperventilating (over-breathing) eventually decreases blood Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels. This decrease causes two things to occur:
- blood pH is altered, which the body must normally keep within a narrow and safe range.
- less Oxygen is released by red blood cells, so your tissues (such as muscle tissue) receive less Oxygen
The body then increases overall tension in an effort to consume more of the oxygen that it lacks. It does this by breathing faster or breathing a larger volume. This exacerbates the problem, and a vicious cycle is born.
This altered blood chemistry is correlated with a number of health problems. Blood vessels & airways constrict, while the nervous system is thrown on a roller coaster ride. The most notable conditions associated are: asthma, sleep apnea, & snoring.
Still more symptoms are:
shortness of breath, anxiety, tension, irritability, depression, nausea, insomnia, chest tightness that is not heart related, airway sensitivity, mucus production, erratic heart beat, cold extremities, etc.
All of the symptoms may be addressed by treating the cause. In this case; hyperventilation. Here are 4 easy things you can do to help re-establish healthy breathing patterns, blood chemistry and well-being.
Do it as often as you can; walking, standing, sitting, sleeping. Do what you can, even if you cannot nose-breathe for long at first. Your body will change slowly.
Inhale for 2 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds, pause for 1 second. Repeat this pattern until it feels natural (it may take a few brief sessions). Remember to breathe calmly and naturally. Don’t force it.
Allow only your abdomen to move in and out while breathing, as opposed to breathing with your chest. Breathing with your chest requires a higher amount of strain on the body.
Use the patterns described in #2 and #3 when performing this exercise. Sit in a chair (good posture is key) and completely relax every muscle in your body. Sitting in a quiet area is optimal. Breath softly and naturally. Next, inhale and exhale slightly less than what is comfortable. The idea is to maintain a “slight hunger” for air. This will cause a momentary increase in your blood CO2 level.
This is the optimal solution for treating the cause, for reasons listed above. Start with 2 minutes each session, then slowly increase to 10 minutes per session. At the least, do it first thing when you wake up and last thing before you go to bed.
Congratulations, you are well on your way to regaining control of your own health!