Why Normal Breathing is Shallow (Light and Easy)

Important note. The term "shallow breathing" is confusing because it can relate to 2 different factors:
- tidal volume (or amount of air per one inhalation)
- breathing mechanics (costal-diaphragmatic breathing or problems with chest breathing).
When speaking about "shallow breathing" ordinary people often refer to upper chest breathing and anxiety or problems with pneumonia related to it. This type of "shallow breathing" (i.e., chest or upper chest breathing) is a pathological symptom. However, when we speak about tidal volumes, normal breathing and ideal breathing are shallow (or tiny in air volumes inhaled in during one breath).
If a person with normal breathing parameters is asked about their breathing feelings or respiratory sensations, they will say that they do not feel their breath. Why is that so? Normal tidal volume is only about 500 ml or around 0.6 g of air, which is inhaled in during a single inspiration. Therefore, normal breathing pattern is slow in frequency (normal breathing rate is only 12 breaths per minute), nasal only, and very small in amplitude. It is shallow in relation to tidal volume (or light and easy). Hence, it is sensible that healthy people are usually unable to sense their respiratory movements.
Sick people have heavy and deep (or noisy) breathing because they breathe too much (see this Table with 34 medical studies). They often feel movements of air in the nasal passages, chest movements (due to costal breathing), and other effects related to their big and deep breathing. Their over breathing decreases their body oxygenation and creates cell hypoxia due to CO2 effects: constriction of blood vessels and thesuppressed Bohr effect discussed later. Hence, overbreathing (or breathing more than the physiological standard) leads to reduced oxygenation of the human body and this physiological law is confirmed by numerous studies that compare body oxygenation index (the DIY CP test). Normal and healthy people breathe little, but they have higher CPs and more oxygen in body cells. Sick people breathe way more than the norm, but their body oxygenation is below the norm.
There are, however, exceptions from these observations. Some people can feel their breath, even though they can have normal breathing:
- Healthy children (e.g., 6-10 years old) with normal breathing pattern are able to feel their breathing (even though it is tiny in amounts) due to acute awareness about their bodily sensations.
- Vice versa, elderly people, even when they breathe 2 times twice faster and/or twice deeper than the medical norms, often do not notice any sensations of their heavy breathing due to absence of attention to their breath for many decades.
- People, who have been learning and practicing breathing retraining methods and techniques (the Buteyko method, Hatha Yoga, etc.), often have acute perceptions of their breath, even if they breathe less and slower than the physiological norms or have shallow automatic breathing. This is possible due to deliberate focus on breath sensations during their training sessions.
Old Hatha Yoga manuscripts are full of ideas to restrict, slow down and restrain breathing. These ideas are wise since breathing less during our automatic or unconscious breathing increases body oxygenation.
The main Buteyko method exercise is called "shallow breath" or "reduced breathing" since its goal is to make breathing easier and lighter regardless of the initial health and breathing parameters of the person. Some breathing exercise or technique is useful if it makes our unconscious breathing less frequent and more shallow.

No comments:

Post a Comment