Breathing is an autonomous function of our body. Thanks to our nervous system we pace our own breathing without the need to think about it. Doctor Francesca Puggioni, pneumologist at the Personalized Medicine Center: Asthma and Allergology of Humanitas, spoke about breathing in an interview for Radio 24’s program “Heart and money”.
Evaluating the quality of one’s own breathing is not easy, even though it is important to be aware of it.

How can you tell if you are breathing well?

“In order to understand how you breathe, you may stand shirtless in front of a mirror and observe the movements of your upper body and in particular, the way you breathe with your abdomen or with your chest.
You will see that your diaphragm lowers and rises, and your chest becomes larger, in order to make it possible for your lungs to expand. Check your shoulders too. When we are not breathing well, we use compensatory muscles to help our breathing.
This natural mechanism may become harder to perform under certain conditions. For example, due to being overweight, during physical exertions, while on the sofa in an unusual position”, Doctor Puggioni explains.

Why do we feel our breathing changes while we exercise?

“It is possible to find it hard to breathe sometimes, from a little feeling of unease to a severe one. In these cases, you should stop, don’t panic, and try to control the rhythm of your breathing.
This happens because, in ancient times, our body tended to prepare to sprint when we were in tense situations by tensing the muscles in order to make them ready. Nowadays we don’t apply this mechanism on our body anymore, but it is still active on the psychological level. Thus, we block our respiratory muscles and stop breathing without intending to, and we breathe badly as a consequence.
Yoga, pilates, tai chi or martial arts are particularly well-suited for people with respiratory issues or people whose emotional state often affects their breathing. These disciplines make people more aware of their own breathing, thus making them breathe better”, the specialist suggests.

Bad breathing, dizziness and confusion

Bad breathing, especially when one is tense, often causes dizziness and mental confusion.
“In fact, our brain needs oxygen to work at its best. However, being tense makes us breathe much faster than normal. As a consequence, we store much carbon dioxide, that fogs our mind and makes us perform worse.
In general, the normal breathing rhythm is 12 intakes of breath per minute. We inhale deeply from the nose and exhale slowly from the mouth, oxygenating our brain in the best way”, Doctor Puggioni suggests.

It’s important to remember that there is a link between anxiety and bad breathing. As Doctor Puggioni reminds us, “It’s not easy to keep calm if you feel incapable of breathing or if you are struggling with it. However, respiratory issues should not be underestimated and should be treated as such. People who suffer from them have to get treated, instead of being just labeled as “anxious people”. The specialist will perform a diagnosis, confirming or excluding respiratory issues, before saying that anxiety is the cause of the problems the patient is experiencing”.