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Breathing - getting the basics right

Breathing - getting the basics right

Introduction
Get the basics right
One-minute stressbusters

Get the basics right

First check that you're breathing correctly. ‘Normal quiet breathing is mostly from your diaphragm,' explains Mike Thomas. Put your hand on your navel, as you breathe in, your stomach should move out. If it doesn't, you're using your upper chest instead of your diaphragm. If it's extreme, your stomach might even move inwards, as it would after you've been running, when you need to take in large breaths for a short time.


Next, take a normal breath and count how long you can hold it without straining. It should be 30 seconds, but in abnormal breathers it can be as low as five seconds. ‘Normal breathing is 12 to 15 breaths per minute, but over-breathers can take up to 20 breaths a minute, so counting your breaths can be a good indicator,' advises respiratory physiotherapist Anne Bruton.


‘Another clue that you could be a dysfunctional breather is if you often sigh or yawn,' she explains. You may also often feel that you can't ‘catch' your breath or fill up your lungs fully.

Can you learn to breathe well?
Simply understanding what's happening, can be enough to sort out the problem. But sometimes, breaking bad breathing habits can be difficult.


‘So if, for example, you're an upper chest breather - using your chest muscles instead of your diaphragm - your brain will want you to maintain the status quo and carry on doing what you've become accustomed to,' explains respiratory physiotherapist Anne Pitman. ‘If you try to override that, it will send out a message making you feel uncomfortable and constricted.'

Asthma and breathing

According to recent research, breathing exercises can help to control asthma. The study at Aberdeen University discovered that at least one in three women with asthma was over-breathing, making their symptoms worse. In a clinical trial, asthma sufferers taught the Buteyko method - a series of breathing exercises that helps to raise carbon dioxide levels - managed to decrease their symptoms by 98%, and reduce their use of reliever inhalers by 98% and preventer inhalers by 92%.

Feature published in July 2005

The answers to specific problems may not apply to everyone and are not substitutes for professional medical advice. If you're worried, see your GP.

For more information, visit www.netdoctor.co.uk
 

 

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