Your body thrives on the oxygen you draw in through your lungs. And your body knows exactly what to do to take a breath.
So why do you sometimes find yourself a bit short of breath, wishing you could pull in one big inhale?
A serious medical condition aside, it may surprise you to learn that it’s not so much an inability to inhale that’s keeping you from filling your lungs to capacity but rather an inability to exhale. In fact, Fritz Perls, M.D., one of the grand-daddies of body-centered psychotherapy, often noted that “Anxiety is excitement without breathing.”
Whether you’re holding your breath with anticipation or simply taking shallow breathes, the quickest way to deepen your breathing and release the tension in your ribcage (which by the by is one of the main reasons your breath became shallow in the first place) is to exhale completely.
Give it a try:
When you feel you have reached your limit, push out just a little bit more air.
One way to easily do this is to imagine breathing out through a straw or blowing up a balloon. When you feel your lungs are empty give one last little blow. Make sure you’re exhaling from your chest and lungs rather than air held in your cheeks.
After that last push simply stop.
Hold your breath.
When you feel you really need to breathe, let go and allow air to enter your lungs.
Feel how much deeper and easier you are breathing.
Still not sure you’re doing it “right”? Here’s a clue. If you don’t automatically take a giant breath, chances are you’re “cheating” either by taking tiny inhalations or not allowing yourself to fully exhale. If that’s the case for you, fear not. Get an actual straw and a small cup of water. Blow bubbles continuously through the straw until your lungs ache for air. Hold your breath while you take the straw from your mouth and see what happens if you just let go and let nature take it’s course.
Notice: If you wait and let your inhalation happen automatically, your ribs will fully expand to pull air into your lungs. Your body WANTS to breathe. If you simply let it do what it already knows and wants to do, you’ll be rewarded with a much deeper breath than if you try to make your ribcage expand to inhale.