I remember when I was frustrated growing up, my mom would say, "Relax honey, and count to ten." Well, now that I'm older, I have realized she was not attempting to incite a fit of teenage-girl rage, she was right. What she was trying to tell me was to take a minute, pause, and just breathe.
Practicing diaphragmatic (or belly) breathing reinforces good posture, downregulates the sympathetic nervous system, and feels REALLY good. Like.... REALLY, REALLY good.
Like many of us, I was taught to "suck it in" when it came to my stomach. While this may be appealing when wearing a form-fitting dress or tucked-in dress shirt, it can actually contribute to incorrect posture and pain.
So...how do YOU breathe? You may be thinking..."dumb question lady, I breathe in, I breathe out. That's it. Simple." But believe it or not, there is a technique to giving your body deep, quality, oxygen-rich breaths. So first let's find out how YOU breathe.
Put one hand on your chest, and one on your belly. Breathe normally and see which hand moves the most. If it's your chest-hand, you likely are shallow, or chest, breathing most of the time (which is very common). If your belly-hand moves most, congratulations! You are practicing diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing involves taking breath in through your nose, pushing your diaphragm down, and pushing your belly out. This allows your lungs to fill with oxygen more efficiently, therefore giving your body the nourishment it needs.
Why do we want diaphragmatic breathing? Well, it's not only fun to see how far you can stick your belly out, but has numerous health benefits as well:
Activates parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system
Delivers oxygen to the body
Strengthens postural muscles
Conversely, shallow (chest) breathing:
Activates sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system
Decreases oxygen to muscles, causing painful ischemia
Weakens postural muscles
Practicing dentistry is a stressful career, both mentally and physically. Being mindful of how you are breathing both in and out of the operatory can help you not only practice good ergonomics, it can lessen stress and increase overall well-being.
So let's channel our inner child and push out that tummy, it's good for you!