Breathing with an extended exhalation is important for a number of reasons including lowering the risk for complications such as pneumonia and infections. By breathing deeply, you help increase the blood and oxygen supply to your lungs increasing the circulation in your body. With Covid-19, the major risk is not whether or not you are exposed, rather it is whether you are exposed and then have to be hospitalized and potentially require ventilator in order to survive. Working to increase your lung capacity to improve the amount of oxygen filling the air sacs in your lungs will help you to fight off developing pneumonia or infections during this current crisis and in the future (for example during the regular flu season). An added bonus is deep breathing has been shown to decrease one’s overall feelings of stress. You may be asking, what kind of deep breathing do I need to be doing? There are 2 that can be done easily and anywhere that I recommend to all of my clients especially if they are having complaints of shortness of breath. The first, specifically for shortness of breath is called Purse Lip
Breathing: Take a deep breath in and then slowly exhale through pursed lips as if you are blowing a kiss. Work to make your exhalation at least twice as long as your inhalation. Repeat 3 -10 times. This can be done any time of day sitting, standing or laying down or when you are walking or doing any other activity and suddenly feel short of breath. Stop and perform purse lip breathing until you regain a normal breath.
Deep Belly Breathing: This is more formal breath work. Sit in good posture with your feet on the floor. Take a deep breath in and work to fill the entire area first with the belly filling up and out and then the lower, middle and upper rib cage making sure to visualize filling the back and sides of the lungs/rib cage with air as well as the front. Visualize your belly and rib cage as an elevator and your breath is riding up to the upper floors. Hold for a moment at the top and then slowly release the air in reverse order, the top of the rib cage, middle, bottom relaxing and then the belly moving up and in as you exhale. If you start to feel dizzy or uncomfortable, take a regular breath as needed and then resume. For those that meditate or do yoga you can sit in any position that you normally would with your spine straight. Repeat this breathing for 5 minutes or more and you will have the added benefit of reducing the stress in your life as well as helping to oxygenate the blood and keep the air sacs in the lungs open.