A young woman breathing in a field

Turns Out You’ve Been Breathing Wrong Your Whole Life

In. And Out. In. And Out.

There are lots of things we thought we’d have mastered by now that we never quite managed. Speaking Mandarin, DIY, playing the guitar 

But breathing was something we thought we could check off the list, and for which we could say “Yep, got that nailed”. 

Turns out we were wrong.

As we’ve grown up, we’ve actually taught ourselves to breathe badly.  Worse still, our bad breathing could now be keeping our blood pressure up, reducing our athletic performance, disturbing our sleep and leaving us stressed.

The only solace is that 95% of people are breathing wrong too, so at least we’re not alone.

Getting it wrong

As newborns, we had breathing down-pat.  But then life intervened, and we went from text-book perfect diaphragmatic ‘belly-breathers’ to vertical ‘chest-breathers’.

Here’s how to find out which you are.  Lie down, put one hand on your upper chest and one just below your ribcage, and breathe normally. If your bottom hand doesn’t rise much more than your top one, then – oh dear – you’re a chest-breather.

There are various possible causes.  Stress tightens the chest muscles, causing shallower breathing.  Poor posture, or sitting down a lot, scrunches up your organs and reduces your lung capacity by almost a third, while those weakened abs struggle to push air out.  Even sucking in your stomach to make it look like you have a super-flat midriff can encourage chest-breathing.

Yes, being shallow leads to breathing shallow – go figure!

Whatever the cause, the effect is the same: you get less oxygen, which, among other things, strains your heart and raises cortisol levels, which, in turn, can cause mood swings, restlessness and weight gain.

Doing it right

Hands still in place?  Then try consciously pushing your lower hand further out than your upper hand when you inhale… That’s it.  That’s belly breathing (for the more visual among you, here’s some handy instructions).  

Simple, right?

Even a few minutes of breathing like this and you’ll be amazed how much better you feel.

One final tip – don’t forget to breathe properly when exercising.  That sounds painfully obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how often people hold their breath, or don’t fully allow themselves to exhale, when, say, doing press-ups, crunches or workouts like yoga and HIIT.

That’s it – Now you can breathe easy 💨