Deprived of a Beneficial Therapy?
Although I've been in and out of hospitals since my diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis at 9 years of age, I have never had a CF specialist of any kind teach me the basics on how to breathe correctly or optimally. This sounds a bit bizarre to me, should this not be one of the first things we get a lesson in? We are taught how to use our nebulisers and how to take our inhalers and home IVs. So surely we should be taught how to use our lungs, airways and diaphragm in the most beneficial way? Especially considering the benefits this has for the average person without respiratory issues -as you will learn below.
Our lungs are free, we already have them, so there is no cost to our healthcare system. There is also no issue of any unwanted chemicals, toxins or side effects by engaging in breathwork to improve our breathing, unlike that of many medications.
Or am I being ignorant? Is this not part of our respiratory physiotherapy because the majority of us struggle to breathe without coughing or loosing our breath? Am I 'privileged' with a milder struggle with CF to believe that many of us could manage this type of therapy and in fact could benefit from it much more than the average person?
The Time is Now
Let's face it, thanks to multiple genetic therapy drugs that are now available for us CFers, the disease is changing. So many of us are experiencing less annual hospital admissions, less disease progression, less fatigue, less coughing and breathlessness, living more independent lives and so many females with the disease are even falling pregnant without really trying to!
Perhaps now is the time to actively explore this idea as I am in the middle of my Breathwork Coaching training -don't steal my idea!! LOL!
Since beginning my training, I have learned so many mind-blowing facts about breathing that I feel compelled to share with the CF community, so sit tight while I dive in...
- Similar to aerobic exercise, breathwork improves your heart function and strengthens your muscles. But most importantly, -for the CF community, breathing exercises can improve your lung capacity!
- Did you know, it is more beneficial for you to breathe through your nose, rather than your mouth on a daily basis? This is because the nose filters and humidifies the air before it goes into your lungs. The hairs in our nose catch any unwanted germs and prevent them from being inhaled into the lungs. -An great tip for anyone attending their CF hospital any time soon. However, when working out, it can be beneficial to breathe through the mouth.
- The average person uses 1 litre of their 6-7 litre lung capacity. So many of us breathe far too shallowly, not engaging in belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Instead, we only inhale as far as our chest. It is essential that we engage our diaphragm while breathing. If we do not, overtime this primary breathing muscle will become stiff and weak. So the sooner we correct this the better!
- It's also worth noting, if you live in a state of chronic stress, there is a good chance that you experience constriction in your diaphragm. The diaphragm rests under your ribcage and contracts and flattens out to fill the lungs with air. As you exhale, it relaxes and expands upward. When we are breathing at a restful rate, it handles most of the work. But when we are highly stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and most of the work is done by the set of secondary breathing muscles, mainly in the neck, back and in the upper chest, while the diaphragm does very little. This is why these areas become stiff, tense and sore when you are stressed. Over time, this causes stale air to build up, leaving less room for the diaphragm to contract and bring in fresh oxygen. This leads to lower oxygen levels, and less reserve for exercise and activity.
- If practiced regularly, breathing exercises can help rid the lungs of accumulated stale air, increase oxygen levels, improve your lung capacity and get the diaphragm to return to its job of helping you breathe optimally.