How You Breathe Matters

African-American man taking a deep breath

The way we breathe can either induce stress or encourage healing and calmness. Inhaling and exhaling properly affects us mentally and physically.

What’s in a breath?

Breathing is not only taking in oxygen. It’s also about managing the levels of carbon dioxide, a gas released when exhaling, that contributes to our respiratory function. The longer you practice exhaling through your nose, the more relaxed your body will feel as it releases more carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a potentially toxic gas when it builds up in the body.

What impacts my breathing?

Seasonal allergies, along with irritants such as smoke, dust, pollen and fragrances effect the efficiency of breathing. These pollutants cause internal swelling, excessive mucous, coughing and a host of other health issues.

What can I do to breathe better?

Deep breathing lowers blood pressure and promotes the body’s balance. Diaphragmatic breathing is a form of deep breathing. Also known as “abdominal breathing or belly breathing,” it encourages full oxygen exchange as you inhale air into the deepest parts of the lungs while engaging your abdominal muscles.

Practice deep breathing by lying on your back with a pillow under your head with your knees bent. Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Inhale or breathe through your nose, allow your belly and chest to rise and then exhale out of your mouth. This technique is most effective when the stomach rises higher than the chest.

How will intentional breathing and wearing a mask improve my health?

Walking and taking deep breathes on a regular basis helps keep you healthy. The American Heart Association recommends 30 to 50 minutes of exercise daily to promote respiratory strength.

Wearing a mask reduces the risk of transmitting COVID-19, the flu and other contagious diseases. Some ways to minimize the discomfort and anxiety of wearing a mask include: Using essential oils (placing a drop of lavender oil in your mask), chewing gum or wearing lip balm. Ultimately, wearing a mask is a form of self-care and shows respect for others.

Luminis Health Physical Therapy is opening a new location in Upper Marlboro on Nov. 12. Learn more here.

Rhonda Fowler PT, MS, CLT, CWS, is a physical therapist at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center.

Clarissa M. Ocampo, MM MA CCC-SLP, CLSVT LOUD, is a speech language pathologist at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center.