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written by Matt Marchant

A Brief Manual for Corrective Breathing Strategies and the elimination of hyperventilation and hypoventilation

     The first breathe you took at birth was crucial, but your most important breath is the next one that you will take. The main purposes to breathing are: to supply the body with sufficient oxygen, to remove excess carbon dioxide, and to maintain a constant pH level in the bloodstream. Correct breathing results in an appropriate and balanced amounts of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) within the bloodstream. The act of breathing is under the control of our Somatic Nervous System, which means we have conscious control over it, but most times it operates at the edge of our awareness. There are different ways to breathe and at various times and under specific circumstances we can and should breathe according to the situation. This article will only look at “relaxed” or “normal” breathing, not breathing while exercising.

What is hyperventilation?

     It is “over” breathing, and results in not getting enough CO2. This is common of anxiety and chronic “bad” breathing techniques. As CO2 decreases, the arteries clamp down on the blood supply going to the brain. Even if the blood supply is highly oxygenated, not enough will reach the brain and damage can occur. General complaints are: fatigue, irritability, lightheadedness, panic attacks, or the inability to concentrate.

What is hypoventilation?

     It is “under” breathing, and results in not getting enough O2. This is commonly called “shortness of breath” and is mostly seen in people with known respiratory problems. Obvious problems result from a lack of oxygen. We will cover a few later on.

What is the best breathing style for normal and relaxed breathing?

     Belly and Nose Breathing.

How to Belly Breath:

  1. Stand or sit with good posture. Poor posture will negatively effect the benefit of belly breathing by not allowing the abdominal muscles to move freely.
  2. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
  3. Place your tongue gently on the roof of your mouth, just behind the front teeth.
  4. Take a deep breath in through the nose only, while pushing your belly OUT into and towards your hand. Keep your belly relaxed. Try breathing in for 3 seconds.
  5. Exhale though the nose as you pull your belly button IN towards your spine. Still maintain a relaxed belly even though you are “pulling” it back in. Do not over-contract the abdominal muscles. Try breathing out for 3 seconds. This ratio of 3 seconds breathing in/ 3 seconds breathing out, is ideal for beginners.
  6. Repeat.

Goal: Belly Breathing for 5-10 minutes everyday.

What is wrong with “Thoracic” or shoulder breathing?

  • There are times to breathe using shoulder movement (elevation of shoulders), that being: during intense exercise, under physical stress, and/or at high altitude (12,000-14,000 ft +). It would be useful and appropriate at those times. Other than that, excessive lifting of the shoulders will create and perpetuate mid-back (thoracic spine) and trap/neck tightness. These muscles and areas are already tight in most people due to bad posture, spending too much time in a seated position, and /or the experience of chronic stress.

What is wrong with breathing in through the mouth?

  • First, we where all created to breath through our noses. Babies instinctually breathe in and out through their nose in a relaxed state. This allows them to breathe while nursing. In time we can “un-learn” this correct breathing and become mouth breathers. Breathing through the mouth does not warm or moisten inhaled air and so large gulps of cold and dry air gets into the lungs. The air is also not cleaned properly, so germs have an easier time getting into the body. Breathing in through the nose allows for a 10-20% increase of oxygen into the bloodstream. Consequently, by mouth breathing, the heart has to work harder due to the decrease in oxygen.
    • The complications possibly caused by mouth breathing are:
      • Headache (due to decreased oxygen to brain and other tissues)
      • Excessive head forward posture (causes neck and upper back pain)
      • Dry mouth and throat
      • Chronic tonsil swelling
      • Chronic cough and/or throat clearing
      • Noisy breathing
      • Noisy eating
      • Impaired sense of smell
      • Snoring
      • Extra mucus production
      • Bloating, flatulence, belching
      • Bad breath

     In conclusion, relaxed belly breathing has many benefits and is beneficial to all. Practicing this normal type of breathing will make your body healthy and efficient. It will reduce stress by helping to lower blood pressure and heart rate. At night it will improve sleep quality by decreasing the pH of the blood which naturally anesthetizes the nervous system. In the morning, it will resume and restore the natural waking pH, which stimulates the nervous system into its usual activity.

     Please feel free to leave your experience, comments, or questions about breathing and its benefits below. If you would like more instruction on Corrective Breathing, sign up for one of my breathing classes or contact me for a personal appointment.


Resources to learn more:

  • “Anatomy of Hatha Yoga” by David H. Coulter, 2001.
  • “The Carbon Dioxide Syndrome” by Russel and Jennifer Stark, 2002.
  • “Freedom From Asthma” by Alexander Stalmanski, 1997.

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About Matt Marchant

Matt is a student of life and enjoys laughing, learning, and loving along with his wife and two year old son. He enjoys spending time in nature where he finds peace and rejuvenation, but most of all the simplicity that the outdoors provide. When he is not working he is playing, when he is playing he is working.

Experience:

Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) & Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) Owner of Marchant Training Method, since 2001

Education & Certifications:

  • B.S. Degree in Kinesiology with a focus on Exercise Physiology from California State University at Fullerton in 2001
  • Holistic Lifestyle Coach (HLC) Level 3 from the C.H.E.K Institute
  • Exercise Coach from the C.H.E.K Institute
  • Circular Strength Training Coach (CST) from RMAX International
  • Circular Strength Training Kettlebell Specialist (CST-KS) Instructor from RMAX International
  • Holistic Coach from Journeys of Wisdom
  • PPS Success Practitioner from the C.H.E.K Institute

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