Myth: a Big Breath is a Good Breath

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A big volume of inhaled air is only appropriate when we are exercising strongly – when there is a demand in the body. At rest, we require only about 500 mls. of air per breath. When we breathe in large volumes of air, we necessarily breathe out large volumes of air and as a result breathe off our carbon dioxide levels and this is where the problem begins.

Maybe you think it is the level of oxygen that controls our breathing. This is the case when the brain is being starved of oxygen, but in a normal healthy body it is the carbon dioxide level that activates the breathing response. Carbon dioxide is precious and essential for good health. It is not toxic.

The physiology of respiration (breathing and the resultant gas exchange) is quite complicated but suffice to say that if the carbon dioxide levels are lowered (because you’ve exhaled large volumes of air by breathing too big a breath, or too fast), the pH of the cells changes. This causes smooth muscle to go into spasm (in the lungs, gut, bladder, kidneys, and blood vessels) and prevents oxygen from easily being released from the red blood cells into our tissues. This is sub-clinical in the first instance. You don’t know it. You can’t feel it.

It is not hard to make a connection between poor breathing chemistry and eventual disease, second-rate health and emotional states, not to mention tiredness.

Changing your breathing habits

What causes this dysfunctional breathing pattern? Just as poor posture, a busy lifestyle, stresses at work, stressors from diet become the norm, so too is the resultant state of hyperarousal of the body and consequently an increased breathing rate and increased volume of air per breath.

This can be checked by having your breathing and nasal health assessed as part of your musculoskeletal retraining, using the BradCliff Method (see below).

Apart from learning what an ideal breath consists of, your breathing chemistry can be evaluated with the ‘CapnoTrainer®’. This device measures the carbon dioxide in exhaled air. It is connected to the USB port of the computer and gives immediate feedback with a graph on the computer screen whether your breathing is ‘normal’ or whether you are over-breathing.

Learning to change your breathing habits can be immediate (though not necessarily easy) and set you on the path to better health. After all, we breathe more times than we do anything else, possibly more than 20,000 breaths per day, so it’s best to get it right.

Is your breathing making you ill?  Take the test.

Learn more about the BradCliff Method of correcting breathing pattern disorders.