Most people breathe the way they dance: They think they know what they’re doing, but they really don’t have a clue.
Stop for a second and focus on your breathing. Now look down. See anything moving? Probably not. That’s because most people typically take very short, shallow breaths…the kind that simply come from your chest. For you to really improve your lung function, you need to practice taking deep, whole breaths. It should take about 5 seconds to inhale and 7 seconds to exhale. And your belly should get big, then small. Ahhh…that’s better.
The Way Your Lungs Work
Remember what makes the lungs move? Your diaphragm. That’s the muscle that pulls your lungs down, so your lungs expand and you can really circulate oxygen throughout the whole lung. As your diaphragm pulls your chest cavity down and you inhale, your belly button should be moving away from your spine as you fill your lungs. Your chest also will widen…and maybe even rise ever so slightly … as you inhale. When your lungs feel fuller than a sumo wrestler’s lunchbox, exhale slowly. You can pull your belly button toward your spine to force all the air out of your lungs.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
Okay, so now you know how to breathe deeply, but what are the benefits? There are lots, actually. For one, it helps transport nitric oxide… a very potent lung and blood vessel dilator that resides in your nasal passage… to your lungs. So it makes your lungs and blood vessels function better. Taking deep breaths helps your lungs go from 60% saturation of oxygen to 100% saturation of oxygen. Another benefit is that it helps improve the drainage of your lymphatic system, which removes toxins from your body. And the deep breaths act as a mini meditation, and from a longevity standpoint, that is an important stress reliever.
Take 10 deep breaths in the morning, 10 at night, and as many as you need when shooting free throws or chasing your toddler down the cereal aisle.