With the standardized practice of social distancing due to the pandemic, it has become normal to wear your facemask whenever you are out in public. Whether the facemask is made out of paper, cloth, or a specialized filter substance, breathing has become much more difficult when the mask covers your mouth. While the masks do not completely suffocate the person wearing it, it has become a hindrance to normal breathing function. The reason for this is because we are not used to having anything covering our mouths for an extended time normally and our breathing/ lung capacity is very limited. Also, as we age, our lung functions and their overall capacity diminish. When this occurs, people tend to take shorter breaths where not enough oxygen is inhaled and more carbon dioxide is released from our body. This is phenomena is commonly seen in people who have panic attacks, for example, and can result in someone becoming lightheaded or mentally disoriented which can lead them to passing out.
Can we increase our breathing/ lung capacity? This should certainly help us breathe easier and increase our oxygen intake while wearing a mask, right? The answer to that question is YES! By increasing the our lung capacity, we not only increase oxygen intake into our body’s system to help us function at an optimal level but it can make our breathing and help us participate in rigorous activities and sports much easier. Here are some benefits to having increased lung functions”
- Stronger respiratory muscles
- Optimization of breathing
- Improved lung functions
- Increased oxygen to the brain, hence a clearer and more focused mind
- Increased oxygen to your muscles, hence positive effect on physical shape and performance
- Improved stamina and endurance
So, what are some of the activities that can be done to increase our lung capacity and help us breathe easier with our facemasks on? Here are some of the things that YOU can do today to help you breathe better.
- Acupuncture: There are many acupuncture points on the body that help restore and increase the function of the lung organ. The points are located throughout the body which can help the lung expand more efficiently and increase the overall intake into the body. There are treatment options that can also help body develop a better posture for the back and the neck, clear the nasal passages, and increase the respiratory functions of the body. Acupuncture is very proven, simple, effective, and safe treatment that can help heal the body naturally.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: This type of breathing techniques optimizes the ‘belly’ to do the heavy lifting of the breathing allowing the lungs to do less. This technique is usually done in a calm, relaxed state and is commonly used in meditation exercises. For more information, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.
- Pushing Out: This is stretching exercise focuses on elongating your body to stretch out your diaphragm, your spine, and rib cage. Having these muscles loose and limber will help with your overall breathing. Start by standing with an upright posture with both knees loose. Bend over at the waist while pushing out all the air from your lungs. Slowly rise to a standing position while inhaling. When your lungs are full, hold your breath for 20 seconds. When counting to 20, raise your arms over your head and then relax as you exhale slowly and lower your arms. Repeat four times.
- Rib Stretch: This is almost similar to the Diaphragmatic Breathing mentioned previously with the only difference now mostly focused on the lung rather than the diaphragm. Standing upright, begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs. Slowly start to breathe in, allowing your lungs to be full at maximum capacity. Try and hold the air for 20 seconds. While counting, place your hands on your hips with the thumbs facing forward and pinkies toward the back. Relax and exhale slowly. Repeat three times.
With any exercises or stretches, they should be done slowly and be done up to your capacity to prevent any injuries. There is no need to push your self or your body. Like anything else, consistent practice will strengthen your lungs and their capacity!
John Kim at Fast Relief Acupuncture is a licensed acupuncturist with a unique approach of combining modern sports medicine techniques with acupuncture to relieve pain, improve performance, and get you back in the game! Book an appointment today!
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