How often do you think about breathing throughout your day? Probably not a lot. You know it’s important to enhance your physical activity, digestion and even mental health, but it’s not something you go out of your way to think about.

It’s been said that one can spend 30 days without eating, three days without drinking but only three minutes without breathing. So isn’t it time to pay a little more attention to your breath?

Why breathing is so important

According to The Lung Association: “We are powered by breathing … Our lungs breathe in air, then remove the oxygen and pass it through our bloodstream, where it’s carried off to the tissues and organs that allow us to walk, talk and move. Our lungs also take carbon dioxide from our blood and release it into the air when we breathe out.” 

Breathing is something that we all do without usually realizing it. According to The Lung Association, we breathe in and out about 22,000 times a day. The lungs expand only when there is an increase in the volume of the thoracic cavity. In humans, as in the other mammals, this is achieved primarily through the contraction of the diaphragm, but also by the contraction of the intercostal muscles which pull the rib cage upwards and outwards.

Even though breathing is handled by the autonomic nervous system, there is a lot you can do to consciously improve the efficiency of your breathing—whether doing Pilates, yoga, fitness or just moving through life. It all starts with being aware of the different ways to inhale the good and exhale the bad. 

Nose breathing

The main function of your nose is breathing! With its internal hair system (cilia), the nose filters, humidifies and warms or cools the air (depending on the temperature) before it enters the lungs. As a result of the nose’s natural filtration system, the body doesn’t have to produce as much mucus as it would otherwise to expel debris from the lungs. Nose breathing is the most efficient and cleansing way to breathe when possible—when you can bring enough oxygen in through your nostrils to meet your body’s needs.

Mouth breathing

When the nasal passage is obstructed or when you can’t seem to get enough air in through your nose, the mouth takes over. Try it and you’ll find that the volume of air inspired by the nose is smaller than that of the mouth. Breathing through the mouth can oxygenate the blood more quickly. This is  why we tend to breathe through the mouth during intense physical activity. Breathing through the mouth can also help muscles relax, however, it can also dry up saliva and promote the multiplication of harmful bacteria.

Belly breathing

The term belly breathing refers to diaphragmatic breathing. While there are many ways to breathe, this is one of the most effective ways to fully saturate the lungs with oxygen. 

Try this. Pay attention to your breathing and fill your lungs. Exhale. Then breathe deeply, this time directing the air to your belly. Do you notice a difference? The volume of air is greater when you fill up the part of the lungs towards the belly—the area unobstructed by the ribcage.


Learn how breathing can help optimize movement and posture
—Join Margot McKinnon, M.Ed., in California for 
Breathing Mechanics and Protocols

How we breathe affects everything we do. And breathing is critical to core stability and building bodies that move with ease and integrity. This workshop outlines the biomechanics and physiological underpinnings of this vital process. Read more and register … 

Date/Time: Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 12–6pm
Tuition: $ 240 USD
CECs: 6 (PMA/Body Harmonics)
Location: ReActive Movement, 6200 La Salle Avenue, Oakland, California

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