Breathing correctly is essential to good lung health and also for reducing stress.

Breathing is such a natural process that most of the time we don’t even think about it. However, you may be surprised to know that some of us are not in fact breathing correctly. It is critical to breathe properly, especially when you have unhealthy lungs.

There are two ways to breathe. The first one is an anxious breath in the chest and the second is a relaxed breath in the diaphragm, or more precisely in the tummy area.

STRESS BREATHING

The first breath in the chest is part of the stress response and involves hormones such as cortisol. This type of breathing should last no longer than it takes to deal with a problem in life before another hormone kicks in to create relaxed breathing. If this ‘stress’ type of breathing becomes chronic or habitual then the cortisol and retained carbon dioxide become part of the problem and the body’s natural, healthy systems cannot function properly. It also weakens the immune system and opens you up to infections, which is the last thing you need with unhealthy lungs.

Your goal is to relearn relaxed, healthy breathing, where you clear cortisol and carbon dioxide from your lungs. Too much carbon dioxide in your bloodstream destroys something called haemoglobin which is the blood’s method of carrying oxygen around the body. So you can see why it’s critical to be able to breathe in a relaxed way from the diaphragm.

HOW TO BREATHE PROPERLY

The simple way to learn is to lie on your back on a firm bed or on the floor on a blanket or mat. Put a bit of weight over your belly button, such as a heavy book. Take a breath into your nose so that the book rises as you fill your diaphragm (tummy) with air. Hold the breath in your tummy for the count of four and then breathe out through your nose and feel your tummy deflating. Let go of any tension you may have with the out-breath. Then repeat.

Your upper chest should not move at all, which shows that you are relaxed and not ‘stress breathing’. Practise this over and over again while lying down and once you have really got the long, slow rhythm of relaxed breathing then try it standing up.
You may feel dizzy to begin with getting all this fresh oxygen, but you must practise this every spare minute you have.