Three factors profoundly affect the quality of our breathing
Our Breath Pattern
How We Use Our Diaphragm
A breath pattern goes far beyond what can be captured by a simple summary statistic such as respiration rate. It is defined by how we breathe over time, with parameters such as inhalation time, depth, retention, smoothness, exhalation time, and holding time between breaths. Recent studies have found that the patterns we employ, both consciously and unconsciously, can have a significant impact on our physiology and mental wellness. For example, this research analyzed a range of studies which found that certain rhythmic breathing patterns, when properly practiced, have significant effects on conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and stress related illnesses including post traumatic stress disorder. In this specific example, a rhythmic breathing technique was evaluated which is composed of at least four distinct breathing patterns. As another example, this study considered the effects of rhythmic breathing and found positive effects on immune function. The lesson here is that our breath pattern can present a valuable opportunity to positively impact our health when we choose to practice and consciously employ specific types of intentional patterns.
Diaphragmatic vs. Chest Breathing
The diaphragm is the dome-shaped sheet of muscle under the lungs that serves as the main muscle of respiration. Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is an efficient, natural, and healthy form of breathing where the breather uses more of their entire lung capacity compared to chest breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing, the breather more fully contracts their diaphragm to enlarge the volume of the thoracic cavity to draw air more fully into the lungs, causing the abdomen to expand and belly to rise during inhalation. Chest breathing on the other hand, typically involves shallow breaths taken from the upper lobes of the lungs, primarily and unnaturally using chest muscles to inflate the lungs, with minimal diaphragm and belly movement. Diaphragmatic breathing delivers a significantly larger amount of oxygen to the bloodstream, since the lower lobes of the lungs—which contain a richer supply of blood vessels compared to the upper—receive more air.
A strong connection between posture and breath has been emphasized by numerous traditions for thousands of years, including Yoga Pranayama. The basic idea is that good posture facilitates good breathing. This idea is now supported by a number of recent studies and research. For example, this research paper found a significant relationship between a particular seated posture and the quality of pulmonary function. These researchers found that in slumped sitting, spirometric measurements of forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, and peak expiratory flow were all significantly decreased compared to a normal upright seated posture. One explanation is that posture affects the distribution of weight of visceral organs on the diaphragm, which affects its mobility when breathing. Slumped sitting in particular can have an impeding effect on diaphragm mobility. This research found that posture does in fact directly affect diaphragmatic movement.
The Prana wearable and app utilize sensor-based feedback to directly guide your breath patterns, offering over 80 distinct breathing exercises derived from dozens of scientific studies and research taken place over the past 20+ years (see below). Our platform also specifically trains and tracks diaphragmatic breathing as well as both upper and lower back posture, integrating these 3 important and wholistic aspects of true breathing quality, previously unaddressed by systems such as spirometers or pulse oximeters. Prana can flexibly train breathing and posture together, or independently. Prana additionally tracks 15 distinct body measurements including body fat percentage, factors also linked to many important aspects of our health and wellness.