A newborn baby is lay curled up and asleep.

Babies take deep, relaxing breaths into their abdomen. It’s natural for them. And, this is how to breathe properly. However, age, type of work and life’s stresses and strains will have a toll on your body. Consequently, and without realising it, you ‘unlearn’ how to breathe from your abdomen and start to breathe more shallowly from the chest.

Furthermore, as you get older, these stresses and strains may start to interfere with your posture and subsequently how well you are able to take a deep breath in. Consequently, your body begins to operate the ‘fight or flight’ response. This manifests itself as your breathing changes. You will go from deep, belly breathing to short, sharp breaths, high up in your chest. It’s this type of breathing that helps you to prepare for the ‘fight’ you might be about to take, as your stress levels rise.

Consequences of not breathing properly

The very fact that you’re taking short, sharp breaths indicates that you’re only using the top third of your lungs. Additionally, you’re no longer using your abdomen to breathe. This can make you feel as though you’re hyperventilating. This short, shallow breathing leads to poor exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in your bloodstream, depriving your body of these vital gases.

The resulting lack of oxygen can rob your organs and muscles from a proper blood flow. Furthermore, lack of CO2 can lead to dizziness, fatigue and insomnia. Hyperventilating can also increase your heart rate which you feel as palpitations. Hyperventilating can make you feel anxious and cause panic attacks. To combat this, if a person is having a panic attack, you must ask them to breathe into a paper bag. The reason for this is so that they re-inhale their exhaled CO2, helping to restore normal levels.

How to breathe properly

Just as short, shallow breathing causes this uncomfortable feeling, so then deep, diaphragmatic, belly breathing can restore order. Breathing is your built-in stress reliever and breathing properly can have an impact on your health.

Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is a medical term for breathing muscle training. It is beneficial for everyone. You can perform it using a hand-held breathing training device, such as POWERbreathe.  It works by using a resistance that you breathe in against to exercise your breathing muscles. This makes your breathing muscles work harder. In fact, POWERbreathe IMT is often referred to as ‘dumbbells for your diaphragm’. Moreover, as with any form of exercise training, the more you do it the more beneficial it becomes.

You’re no doubt already aware that with regular exercise you become stronger, more powerful, healthier, and happier. Exercising your breathing muscles makes them stronger too. They become more powerful and less prone to fatigue. Furthermore, because you’re exercising your diaphragm and your intercostals, IMT will also train you how to breathe properly again; like a baby. This will mean that you’ll be getting a good exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide…and with regular training you may begin to feel less anxious because of this.