What is the right way to breathe?

Most people think about their breath at three times in their lives: when it stinks (garlic shrimp); when it's in imminent danger (boa constrictor); and when it's heavy (after a hard workout). Breathing is one of those things we take for granted.

What's astounding is that most people breathe the way they dance: They think they know what they're doing, but they really don't have a clue about how to do it right.

Stop for a second and focus on your breathing. Now, look down. See anything moving? Probably not. That's because most people typically take very short, shallow breaths.

To really improve your lung function, you need to practice taking deep breaths.
  • Lie flat on the floor, with one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath -- slowly. Lying on the floor when you first practice is important, because if you stand up, you're more likely to fake a deep breath by doing an exaggerated chest extension, rather than letting your lungs fill up naturally.
  • Imagine your lungs filling up with air; it should take about 5 seconds to inhale. As your diaphragm pulls your chest cavity down, your belly button should move away from your spine. Your chest will also widen -- and maybe rise slightly -- as you inhale.
  • When your lungs feel fuller than a sumo wrestler's lunch box, exhale slowly -- taking about 7 seconds to let all the air out.

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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.