How to Breathe

How we breathe

Most people breathe in the upper portion of their lungs. Lungs are smaller and shallow at the top. Breathing like this not only inhibits full oxygenation of the blood, it also uses the muscles in your neck, called accessory muscles. They are designed to help you breathe when you are in a fight-or-flight situation or under physical stress.

You can tell if you are breathing in the upper portion of your lungs if you see your shoulders rise and fall while you breathe.

How to breathe

There are several components to breathing. The first is to breathe in the right places. The first is to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. That's usually easy enough.

  • In through your nose, out through your mouth.

The challenging part is to fill the lungs from the bottom up, much like puring water from a pitcher into a glass. Lungs are larger in toward the bottom, allowing more blood to get oxygen. This is especially problematic for women. We spend so much time sucking in our breath while we smooth our stomachs that breathing properly will feel unnatural at first.

Place your hands on your abdomen. When you breathe IN, you should feel your abdomen push OUT. When you breathe OUT, you should feel your abdomen pull IN. Confused yet?

Breathing like this utilizes the diaphragm, which is a muscle and is designed for breathing. The diaphragm sits under your lungs. When lungs fill with air, the diaphragm moves down to allow for the increased space and capacity the lungs take up in the chest cavity. When the lungs empty, the diaphragm rises up again. Going down, the lungs and diaphragm press down on the abdominal cavity and push the contents down and forward (sort of like squishing your stomach contents with a vice - only not harmful). Going up, the pressure is released and the abdomen returns to it's normal place and shape.

  • In through your nose, out through your mouth.
  • Fill the lungs from the bottom to the top: breathe in, stomach comes out - breathe out, stomach comes in.

The last part is pacing. There is a ratio - exhaling (breathing out) should last twice as long as inhaling (breathing in). A good ratio to try is in for 2 and out for 4. Count to 2 breathing in, and count to 4 breathing out. Slightly puckering your lips when breathing out will help to prolong the breath and make it last. Make sure to empty those lungs when breathing out - air that stays behind in the lungs is no longer oxygenated, and won't help get new oxygen to the blood when breathing in again.

  • In through your nose, out through your puckered mouth.

  • Fill the lungs from the bottom to the top: breathe in, stomach comes out - breathe out, stomach comes in.
  • Breathe in for a count of 2, breathe out for a count of 4.

Now to put it all into practice - do these techniques and count while you take steps in walking or climb stairs, or for pacing exercises - it will lessen shortness of breath. It's a lot to do at one time! Some of this takes practice. Sometimes lying down makes the practice easier - everything else can relax while you focus on the simple task of breathing, or what you thought was the simple task of breathing!

Benefits of breathing

Proper breathing is good for a lot of things, systemically speaking. It helps not only with blood oxygenation, it also helps to slow breathing and heart rates. It helps to calm panic. It helps with some swelling problems. It just helps. Master the art of breathing, and it will come naturally to you very soon.

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Comments 10 comments

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 8 years ago from Chennai

Thanks! I also learnt that breathing deeply, and properly as you said, clears the brain and makes it function better. Probably brings fresh blood to the brain or something.


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 8 years ago from Tampa Author

Sending oxygenated blood to the grey matter can only do us favors!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Breathing excercises such as you describe are a part of voice training (singing)

regards Zsuzsy


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 8 years ago from Tampa Author

That's very true. It's usually easier for trained singers to practice breathing techniques for other purposes.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

I think morning is the best time to breathe. relax and fell the best God give for us.


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 7 years ago from Tampa Author

It's a vital component of meditation!


ackal77 6 years ago

yeah i think so


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Wonderful hub, and a great contribution to fitness. GBY


Mindy Meisel profile image

Mindy Meisel 4 years ago from Austin, Texas

It's funny how breathing can be an exercise. I worked with a trainer years ago and breathing during training can be tricky. I've been thinking about writing about this, cause as an athlete I sometimes forget to breath!! Crazy. Thanks for a simple article.


Open 22 months ago

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