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Breathing Deeply

By Dr. Susan E. Marafino

Have you watched an infant breathe? They naturally breathe using their bellies, sometimes called "belly breathing". So what does that have to do with us as adults? Relearning something we did unconsciously as infants and children has many health benefits.

Benefits of deep abdominal breathing include:

• decreased respiration rates
• decreased heart rates
• pain management
• sending vital oxygen to all your organs and tissues

Many adults breathe with shallow breaths, using only the upper chest to move oxygen into and out of their lungs to the heart. Shallow breathing uses mainly the upper lungs, where there is minimal blood flow for oxygen exchange. In fact, most oxygen exchange happens in the lower third of the lungs. And you must move your abdomen during breathing to benefit from this increased oxygen exchange in the lower lungs.

The diaphragm, the powerful muscle between the chest and abdominal cavities, is critical to deep abdominal breathing. As your lungs fully expand, your belly will also expand in response to your diaphragm moving slightly downward. So forget about "sucking your gut in". It's bad for your health, and there are better ways to exercise abdominal muscles.

Dr. Susan Marafino is a Doctor of Chiropractic and yoga teacher practicing at Hamilton Chiropractic Health Center. Contact her with comments at 23 Broad Street, Hamilton, NY 13346 or call (315)824.2504

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