When you say back pain, acid reflux or anxiety, improper breathing doesn’t even cross your mind as one of the culprits.
Think again, says Dr. Belisa Vranich, a renowned clinical psychologist and the author of “Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health.”
Yes, we all do it; we breathe. But most of us take shallow breaths. In time, Vranich says, this can lead to an array of problems with seemingly no connection to dysfunctional breathing: trouble sleeping, irritable bowel, depression, fibromyalgia and more.
Vranich, who teaches people how to get their oxygenation in balance through her The Breathing Class, chatted with us about what good breathing patterns can do for your health plus a fun mantra to help you remember proper form. Here are the highlights from our interview:
On how breathing correctly can help you get fit:
“It can improve your workouts. First, breathing can help you recover from one day to the next; it actually gives you more energy.
Often, when you focus intensely, you don’t breathe and you get tired quickly. At the gym, you should always be exhaling on the effort.”
On how to keep your energy up at work by taking deep breaths:
“You tend to breathe less when you get in front of the computer because your vision is not moving and your screen is small. You tense up your whole body and take tiny little breaths. It actually puts you on alert so you get tired more quickly. Relax your body, take deeper breaths and you won’t deplete your energy.”
On breathing as a quick-fix for acid reflux and back pain:
“It can help very quickly with acid reflux. When you use your diaphragm to breathe, it helps keep the acid down. You know you’re using your diaphragm, when your middle expands on the inhale. You should do belly breathing: squeezing and narrowing your belly on the exhale.”
On the link between poor oxygenation and back pain:
“The diaphragm actually connects to the lower back, so by not using yours to breathe, your back is going to get injured or you’ll experience pain. There’s a lot of research showing that back pain makes your breathing shallow, which leads to more pain. You get into this vicious cycle.”
On the right (and wrong) way to breathe:
“Most people breathe vertically (up and down). Change that. Your shoulders shouldn’t move. Instead, inhales and expand, then exhale and contract. Your core will get much stronger.”
Snack On This:
A mantra to help you practice proper breathing form: “Breathe like your dog. Inhale expand, exhale squeeze.”
Watch Dr. Vranich explain how to correct your breathing: