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Breathe Better

To clear congestion try this breathing exercise: Sit up straight, gently inhale and exhale through the nose, then pinch both nostrils shut. Shake your head up and down or from side to side until you feel the need to breathe. Take a slow breath in through the nose, or through pursed lips if the nose is still congested. Breathe calmly for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat five more times. 

We do it roughly 25,000 times a day, but until recently few of us gave much thought to this automatic bodily function.

“If there’s some good to come out of Covid, it’s that people are paying more attention to how they’re breathing,” said James Nestor, author of “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” which explores how we breathe, how that’s changed and how to do it properly. “You can’t be truly healthy unless you’re breathing correctly.”

How we breathe affects us at a cellular level. Research shows changing the way we breathe can influence weight, athletic performance, allergies, asthma, snoring, mood, stress, focus and so much more. You can learn to breathe better and these exercises can help.

Shut your mouth.

About half of us are chronic mouth breathers, a practice that can irritate the lungs, increase the risk of respiratory infection and sap the body of moisture, and has been linked to bad breath, sleep apnea and other health conditions.

Breathing in and out of the nose filters, heats and treats the air. It helps us takes fuller, deeper breaths. It also allows us to absorb more oxygen and raises the intake of nitric oxide, a molecule that opens the blood vessels, which increases circulation and allows oxygen, blood and nutrients to travel to every part of the body. Immune function, weight, mood and sexual function are all influenced by nitric oxide.

For the nearly 40 percent of people who suffer from chronic nasal obstruction because of allergies, sinusitis, a deviated septum or any of the other many causes, shutting the mouth can be a challenge.

The first step is to clear congestion. “There are sprays and neti pots,” Mr. Nestor said. “I put eucalyptus oil under my nose.

CONGESTION CLEARING An exercise in “The Oxygen Advantage,” by Patrick McKeown, may help decongest the nose: Sit up straight, gently inhale and exhale through the nose, then pinch both nostrils shut. Shake your head up and down or from side to side until you feel the need to breathe. Take a slow breath in through the nose, or through pursed lips if the nose is still congested. Breathe calmly for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat five more times.

Take some deep breaths.

The average adult engages as little as 10 percent of the diaphragm, the jellyfish-shaped muscle under the lungs primarily responsible for respiration. Shallow, chest breathing can overburden the heart, strain the neck and shoulder muscles and keep you in a constant state of low-grade stress. Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, can retrain you to breathe more deeply, allow the lungs to soak up more oxygen and reduce stress.

BELLY BREATHING To begin, lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage. Breathe in slowly through the nose so your stomach expands against your hand. The hand on your chest should not move. Slowly exhale through the nose or pursed lips and feel the belly move down to its original position. Repeat for five to 10 minutes. As you get more comfortable with the technique, practice sitting or standing.

You can’t be truly healthy unless you’re breathing correctly
By Kelly DiNardo 
New York Times 

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