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Do you feel that you need to take a bigger breath in to get more air?

Updated: Dec 1, 2023



Are you struggling to take a bigger breath in? If you could just expand your lungs more and take that deeper breath in you would feel much better.


Over the years people have been told to take in a big or deep breath to get more air in - this could be during exercise, before an event you are performing at, an interview, feeling anxious, or rushing to walk somewhere and you have to stop to catch your breath. Yes there could be a medical reason why this happens which you may need to take further advice on but it could be that you just need to reconsider how you breathe and possibly be persuaded that you may be able to do something about it.


Your lungs are only going to expand so far, so trying to get more air in by breathing more/deeper is not going to work. What else could be going on causing this? If we look into some of the mechanics of breathing it could be that you are trying to breathe by expanding your upper chest only. Doesn't everyone breathe this way - It may be that you have never really thought about it as it just happens automatically, but no, not everyone breathes this way. Being that you only have a certain capacity in your lungs for air, could you do something about the way you breathe to make it more effective and easier to breathe and reduce your symptoms and improve your health?


It could be that you have always breathed this way as far as you can remember, may be some sort of event triggered it to come on, or you changed your breathing habits growing up without knowing it, or have a condition like asthma which affects how you breathe.


And now we are asking you to focus on how you breathe. if you are using your upper chest only for breathing it could result in poor breathing habits, sure we still survive but as you may have felt, it can be a real struggle which affects your health, life style and performance.


We usually look at 3 aspects of breathing. if we observed your breathing at rest, we would probably see your upper chest rising when breathing in. Some people will also arch their lower back and raise their shoulders towards their ears. Your breathing may be hard and fast, possibly using your mouth for breathing or some combination of nose and mouth.


The three aspects of breathing that we usually look at - are your biomechanics, your physiology or the hard and fast breathing and the third aspect would be how your breathing could affect your mind and body, where slowing your breathing can help with anxiety and stress.


How can these three aspects balance your breathing better?

By continually taking a deep breath in with chest breathing you could be breathing in too much oxygen - the trouble is you feel that you need to take in more oxygen especially when you feel breathless and so it seems hard to believe that you could be taking in more oxygen than you need. When we over breathe oxygen, you breathe out more carbon dioxide than we should, you need a kind of balance between the oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. its not a 50/50 balance you do need a lot more oxygen. But we do need a certain amount of carbon dioxide within our cells and blood to exchange for oxygen that you breathe in. The changed balance can make you feel the need for bigger breaths, some signs of over breathing or hyperventilation include shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, frequent sighs or yawns and a faster than normal heart beat.


You may find going for a short walk or climbing the stairs can make you feel short of breath. Where trying to take a deeper breath in using the upper chest breathing where you try to open the chest or lungs even more to increase oxygen, but you can only expand so far. You may not even realise that you are doing this as it becomes part of your normal coping strategy.


This breathing is automatic you don't think about it, and it becomes your normal breathing. Not only does if affect you in the daytime but your sleep can be affected as well. Learning to breathe better through exercises can help reduce the symptoms that go with over breathing.


What does it involve?


There are different exercises we can use to work on the different aspects of breathing as above. Becoming aware of how you are breathing is an important part of the process along with understanding the "Why" behind what you are doing. It does need some daily practice, coaching and time to improve and the exercises should fit into your daily life. We often hear that we have no extra time in the day, but if you are going for a walk or relaxing for five minutes then you could add an exercise as you do these.


Some people do improve faster than others and if you do have any medical conditions this may be a consideration.








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