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Kimberly Burns, OTR/L, CLT – Perspectives – REAL Health

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Breathe In A Healthy Lifestyle: It’s A Matter Of Technique

By Kimberly Burns, OTR/L, CLT

Many people know that breathing is important, yet are unaware of the importance of how you breathe. When you think about it, a few key words like “pursed lip breathing” or “deep breathing” may come to mind. An important muscle to breathing is the diaphragm. a body partition of muscle and connective tissue; specifically: the partition separating the chest and abdominal cavities in mammals, according to merriam-webster.com. It assists in breathing through movement. Most of us don’t really know how our breathing apparatus works or why it would be beneficial to learn more about this amazing resource we all have to boost our own health.

Accessing breath as a tool is a great mind and body connection. Use it to enhance health by learning a variety of different techniques and apply them to the different needs of your body. My favorite breathing technique is called diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is a specific type of breath someone may use to help induce relaxation by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls your relaxation response. To help stimulate this nerve to send a calming response, you can use diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing. Or you can sing!

The diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle AND it is the central pump for the lymphatic system which is a subset of the circulatory system and functions to support every other system in the body, including the immune, digestive, and nervous systems. Pulling your diaphragm down initiates the suction of lymph fluid for return to the circulatory system and stimulates the vagus nerve for relaxation.

To do this type of breathing, you need to soften the belly to allow it to rise and fall appropriately when you breathe. Place a hand on your belly and breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand without resistance. Then, gently tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through your mouth. You just took a diaphragmatic breath! Try it when you want to de-stress. Pilates also uses diaphragmatic breathing at the start of a session to “warm up the core”.

While most of the time diaphragmatic breathing is very beneficial, doing it wrong or if you have certain conditions could have ill effects. The vagus nerve controls the relaxation response of your heart and some head and neck muscles, so compressing it for a long period of time may make you feel light-headed or dizzy.

Another favorite breathing technique is deep breathing. This is where a person would begin breathing through their nose, inhaling deeply with some focus on abdominal movement, yet the goal is to fill your lungs slowly. When you feel you have inhaled what you are able, exhale through your mouth. Some people like to exhale with pursed lips and others like to add a vocalization. I tell my clients to sigh. This vocalization acts as additional input to the lungs to promote calming. Deep breathing like this can improve the elasticity of the secondary inhalation muscles of the chest, pectoralis major and minor and the serratus anterior, which can be found to be tight in many people as we use those muscles to help hold us upright. Using a modified deep breath with a focus on exhaling when you are initiating standing up from a chair can give you more strength by utilizing your core to accomplish the task.

There are many different types of breathing techniques out there, meditative breathing, yoga breaths, mouth breathing, nose breathing. You will also find a variety of different instructions on performing breathing techniques. What’s important is learning the proper techniques for your health and body. As you are learning and experimenting with different ways to breathe, it can be extremely helpful to consult a knowledgeable professional. Learning how to breathe correctly can be very difficult. It’s hard to keep it all straight — coordinating when you breathe in, when you breathe out, and for how long. With proper instruction, you can be taught to bring it all together and introduce these new techniques into your lifestyle. .

Breathing is so simple to do and can have such huge benefits to your overall health and wellbeing. When clients tell me they’re skeptical that they can change the way they breathe because they’ve been breathing a certain way for their entire lives, I tell them it’s never too late to try something new!

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Kimberly BurnsKimberly Burns, OTR/L, CLT, is an Occupational Therapist with over 14 years’ experience working with clients ranging from infants to the elderly. She has always had passion for wellness and what she could do at home for herself to manage pain and delay disease processes. Her recent certification in Lymphedema Therapy has provided her further incentive to focus her business around preventing disease and halting its progression. Kimberly Burns, OTR/L, CLT – (215) 499.0444 – SensoryIntuitionInc@comcast.netwww.SensoryIntuition.com.

Copyright © 2015 REAL Exclusive Magazine www.getrealexclusive.com
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