- Johanna Nordblad
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BREATHE?
The human body needs oxygen so it can use nutrients as fuel for its cells. Oxygen therefore burns food for energy. Combustion produces carbon dioxide and metabolic waste.
As you inhale, your diaphragm muscles contract and sink down towards the abdomen, causing the lungs to fill. The muscles between the ribs lift the ribs, and the chest expands first to the sides and then up and forward.
From the lungs, oxygen passes through the alveoli into the bloodstream and through the heart all around the body. Carbon dioxide is transported from the body through the bloodstream to the alveoli. When you exhale, carbon dioxide is released from your body.
If you hold your breath, carbon dioxide will begin to accumulate in your body. Elevated levels of carbon dioxide cause a feeling of need to breathe. Oxygen binds to red blood cells, so the number of red blood cells determines the oxygen saturation of the blood.
Carbon dioxide is carried away in blood plasma. Plasma can carry more carbon dioxide than red blood cells can carry oxygen. Therefore the bloodstream carries more carbon dioxide.
Exhalation is passive. The chest returns to its resting position and the diaphragm returns to the thoracic cavity. After exhalation, a break follows. You are relaxed for a moment, not breathing until you actively inhale again.
THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
The airways include the upper and lower airways. The upper respiratory tract includes the nasal cavity, the pharynx and the larynx. The lower respiratory tract includes the lungs, the trachea, the bronchi, airways and alveoli.
Other muscles are also needed for breathing, such as the diaphragm, the intercostal muscles, the auxiliary respiratory organs of the neck and shoulders, and the abdominal muscles.
When you learn the right breathing technique, oxygen will be more evenly distributed throughout your body and carbon dioxide will be removed more efficiently.
Improper breathing consumes energy, which is troublesome especially during physical exertion.
By training your diaphragm and holding your breath, you will learn to breathe more economically.
When you do breathing and diaphragm exercises on a regular basis, you will relax, which will also help you master the right breathing technique.