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Learn to breathe properly

Most of us breathe without even thinking about it. But there are both harmful and helpful ways to inhale. Learn the difference.

Breathing mindfully can make the difference between being a nervous wreck and a finely honed machine. No one teaches proper breathing technique alongside reading, writing and ’rithmetic, but they probably should. However, you can breathe easy knowing that it’s very straightforward to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes people make, and reap the rewards of healthy breathing.
 
Why bother? A wide range of scientific and medical research has shown that modulating your breathing technique can reduce stress, increase exercise stamina, help you lose weight and even increase your life expectancy. So how are you getting it wrong? When people breathe without thinking, the main goal is to rid the body of toxic CO2. But maximizing the amount of oxygen we take in is just as important for a healthy body and mind.
 
Poor breathing habits, particularly when we are stressed, anxious or tired, can including mouth breathing, shallow breathing and hyperventilating. The results? An unbalanced nervous system, tighter airways, constricted blood vessels and reduced energy.
 
So how do we correct this? Start by being mindful. Pay attention to how you breathe now. In particular, notice if your breathing patterns change when you are under duress. When do you breathe more quickly and when do you breathe more deeply—and when do you feel better or worse as a result?
 
As you work to improve your breathing practice, bear the following principles in mind. Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth, so the air you take in is properly filtered. Breathe deeply and silently. Breathe using your diaphragm, activating all muscles in your breathing system and filling your belly. Sit up straight as you breathe consciously and mindfully. Here’s an exercise that can help: extend your exhale. Inhale for two full seconds, then exhale for four. Pause for two seconds, then repeat.
 
Need some more support as you develop your mindful breathing practice? There are a variety of breathing apps that can give you focused training on an ongoing basis. Set aside some time every day to focus on improving how you breathe, unlocking the many health benefits will feel like a breeze.