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Welcome to Part B of the first component to Optimum Health: breathing. In the previous article, we discussed the need for fresh, clean air. Really benefiting from fresh, clean air depends on how you breathe.Most people only use a small percentage of their lung capacity by breathing in a very shallow manner. The lungs actually occupy the whole chest cavity from the shoulders to the bottom of the ribs.

Lungs are located in the Human Chest


When breathing is shallow only the top portion of the lungs are used, that is the portion in the upper chest and shoulder area. It’s volume is relatively small and doesn’t provide the surface area for transfer of adequate amounts of oxygen.

Why is it important to breathe deeply?  The brain, eyes and muscles all are dependent on oxygen for adequate functioning. And remember, in the first article, one of the definitions of optimum health was optimum functioning.

When sufficient oxygen is taken in, waste products are taken out in exchange thus creating a clean internal environment and improving functioning.

Here’s a little game you can play with yourself to really get what shallow breathing looks like. When you are standing in a queue or sitting in a meeting with your mind wandering, start looking around at how the people near you are breathing.

Unless, they’re sleeping, you will probably see only their upper chest moving very slightly. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable. Chances are that if they were looking at you, they would see the same thing!!!

Now, how to make that different. Watching a sleeping baby breathe is the best way to see what proper breathing looks like. Yes, we can learn from babies. Even when they’re awake and calm, they breathe from their belly.

Breathing exercises and function

The chest moves only slightly at the end of the breath when the rest of the lungs are full. We stop breathing like that as we grow up and experience stress!!! There is a reason for this which will be discussed in the future article on stress. In short, we learn to hold our breath when we are stressed and over time continue to breathe shallowly.

Re-programing yourself to proper breathing is easy. Simply, take a few minutes to lie down where you can be undisturbed. Place your hands on the middle of your upper abdomen where the ribs curve up to the chest.

As you inhale, imagine that area as a balloon and filling first before any other part of the lungs. Your belly will rise and fall with each breath. At first you may experience that area moving by using your abdominal muscles.

The goal is for the air to be doing the moving. This little exercise will bring more oxygen to your whole body and retrain your breathing. Singers are very familiar with this type of breathing because it gives them the ability to give their voice more power and longer sound.

Once, you’ve mastered returning to a natural style of breathing, you will want to incorporate it into your day by noticing when you are slumped over your desk or computer, thus compromising the lung capacity and your ability to breathe deeply.

A good way to create a habit of breathing deeply is to set your phone, watch or computer alarm for 2 hour intervals and taking a few moments to sit up straight or even standing up is better and focusing on breathing into the belly. Your body will thank you and there is scientific proof that  your stress level will go down.

Take the first step in taking the responsibility for your enhanced health and well being. It doesn’t cost you anything and brings great rewards. Happy breathing.

As always your comments, questions and feedback are welcome.


UM– USEKE Volunteer