When we are born, we breathe perfectly.
If you have children, you may have watched them sleep and noticed how their soft bellies expand when they breathe in and then fall as they breathe out. But if you were to observe your own breath, then you may see something very different.
I find that somewhere around puberty is when this habit starts to change. Maybe it is a response to the stress we begin to feel as we become more aware of things like deadlines and due dates: maybe its being body concious and not wanting to look “fat” as our belly expands when we take a full breath.
Whatever the reason is, we change how we breathe. Instead of letting our bellies expand like a balloon when we inhale, we instead hold our bellies in and expand our chest. But this chest breath is a shallow breath. It is the type of breath that we take when we are in danger: when we are in fight, flight or freeze. This state is the exact opposite of rest, digest, and heal. This means that when we breathe into our chest, not only do we not get as much oxygen, but that we also tell our brain, which then relays this information to the rest of our body, that we are in danger. The entire system goes into a sort of panic and releases chemicals that stimulate our bodies. If we stay in this fight, flight, or freeze state for more than it takes to flee a lion, this can break down our body: it can cause chronic inflammation, excess adrenaline and start the disease process.
One way that we can get out of this cycle degrading health is to change the way that we breathe.
In chronic Illness, we deal with mosaic diseases. This means that it is not one thing that makes us sick or one thing that makes us well. This does mean that we will have to do several things to make us well because it took several thingss to make us sick. Breathing is just one of these things.
There are several breath techniques out there to relax the body, stimulate the vagus nerve and induce the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest and heal). But one thing that they all include is soft belly breathing.
Soft belly breathing is when you breathe into the soft part of your belly (yes that is where the name comes from!) instead of into your upper chest. This lowers adrenaline and calms the nervous and immune system. It impacts digestion, brain function and inflammation. It even impacts blood pressure and heart rate.This type of breath is the type that takes us out of the state of disease and into the state of healing.
I often teach my clients this on one of their first visits with me as a small piece of the CEP protocol, the only diet, lifestyle and functional medicine protocol developed for the genomics of functional medicine. To learn more about the CEP protocol and for tips like this, sign up for the Take Your Body Back Newsletter below and don’t miss a thing!