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Why do we not breathe properly?

Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Breathing plays a significant role on the yogic path, in that it is both a lifestyle decision ("I will breathe properly throughout the day") and a set practice ("I will practice certain breathing techniques for a certain amount of time every day"). Some yoga practices like postures primarily affect the body, while others like concentration and meditation primarily affect the mind. But breathing plays such a significant role on the path because it uses the lungs of the body to positively affect the centeredness and presence of the mind. When we breathe properly, we are less affected by our emotions and are able to conduct ourselves with presence and focus.

But, the flip-side is also true. Most of us are slaves to improper breathing, for while a deliberate breathing routine leads to peace, an indulgence in conflict through arguments and violent films leads to improper breathing. For those of us who have fallen into a habit of improper breathing, it is only when we make a conscious effort to live more peacefully through a path like Yoga that we have a more beneficial lifestyle. And, with conscious effort comes a proper habit.

Master Stephen Co
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Here are the main reasons:

-Postural conditioning. From an early age, we are taught to adopt a posture that is not conducive to abdominal breathing. In school, children are told to “stand up tall and straight.” In the military, recruits are ordered, “Chest out, stomach in!” And modern paradigms of fitness and attractiveness emphasize an erect bearing, a flat stomach, and a curved-backward lower spine. All of these promote a posture that makes deep breathing difficult.
-We hold negative emotions and tension in the muscles of the chest and abdomen. Have you ever been so scared, angry, or stressed out that you felt like you couldn’t breathe? We frequently physicalize our stress and negative emotions; the unconscious mind traps them in the body. While this can happen in any part of our musculature, the chest and abdomen are prime sites for tightness, and the diaphragm muscle is particularly vulnerable. Tension held in the diaphragm manifests as a spasm or contraction, which makes it difficult to draw the diaphragm lower to take a deep breath.
-Lack of awareness. Many of us simply don’t know we could breathe more deeply and more effectively and that deep breathing is healthier. We’ve been conditioned to breathe shallow and high, and we’re unaware of how fully and powerfully we could breathe.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.