Students - Breathe Your Way to Better Learning
Guess what action you've performed more often than any other
in your life? Is it eating? Sleeping? Crying? Laughing? No!
Give up? It's breathing! You've been breathing pretty much
non-stop since you were born, with few exceptions.
So with all those years of practice you probably think you've
figured out how to do it properly by now. Would it surprise
you to learn that your breathing technique was probably better
when you were an infant than it is today?
Watch the way a baby breathes when it's lying on its back.
The baby's little abdomen moves up and down with each breath,
going up when the baby breathes in, and down when the baby
This action is caused by the diaphragm, a powerful muscle
located below the chest cavity. It is the movement of the
diaphragm that pumps air in and out of the lungs.
Take a few moments to observe the way you are breathing, right
now, without changing the way you are doing it.
Notice which parts of your body move as you breathe. Which
parts of your body are not moving? Is the top part of your
chest filling up with air while your lower chest and abdomen
Where do you feel tense? Are your shoulders slumped over or
caved in? Do your shoulders move up and down as you breathe
in and out?
If your shoulders move up and down as you breathe, you are
introducing a lot of unnecessary and ineffective tension into
your body. You are also wasting a lot of muscular effort performing
an inefficient movement. Your shoulders are not designed to
pump air in and out of your lungs.
Remember that it is your diaphragm that powers your breathing.
If you don't know where your diaphragm is, it is located approximately
below the bottom of your ribcage, beneath your lungs and above
your stomach and intestines.
If your breathing fills up and expands the top third of your
lungs while the lower two-thirds do not move, you are not
taking oxygen into your body very effectively.
This is a bad habit that many adults have developed. You can
eventually end up over-expanding the air-sacs in the top third
of your lungs, while those in the bottom part of your lungs
never fill up properly.
Although we have wonderful breathing techniques as babies,
we often develop bad habits and accumulate physical and emotional
tensions as we grow older. These can eventually impede our
breathing and our overall body and brain effectiveness.
Short changing your body on oxygen will hurt your brain more
than any other organ. Remember that this three-pound organ
can require as much as 20 to 25% of your body's oxygen supply!
If you are a student who is studying, your brain cells need
to have an adequate supply of oxygen. When you don't breathe
properly, your brain cells can't function at their best, and
you won't be as good a learner as you could be.
To increase your ability to think clearly and concentrate,
make certain you are avoiding some of the worst breathing
disrupters. If your shoulders are hunched forward you diminish
your breathing capacity. If only the top part of your chest
is filling up, you are not making use of all the cells in
the lower part of your lungs that are desperate to take in
some air for you.
Put your hands on the lower part of your ribcage, one on each
side. As you breathe in and out, can you feel whether your
lungs are filling and pushing outward near the bottom? Or
is all the movement at the top of your chest?
Lie down and practice breathing the way a baby does. Allow
your body and mind to become very relaxed and let your abdomen
move up and down freely. You may have to give yourself mental
instructions to relax your shoulders, chest and abdomen as
Spend some time becoming familiar with this sense of bodily
relaxation. Try to remember the sensation of breathing smoothly
When you breathe in and out, do you make a smooth transition
from your in-breath to your out-breath? Do you notice that
you sometimes stop your breath? Learn to avoid this habit.
Holding your breath, unless it is a part of a deliberate breathing
technique can result in difficulty paying attention while
For most learning purposes what works best is a very smooth,
relaxed, and flowing in-and-out breath with no pauses. If
you want to slow down your brain waves while you take in new
information, you can count slowly and smoothly while you breathe
in and out rhythmically.
For example, breathe in smoothly while you count to four,
and breathe out smoothly to the count of four. You may relax
even more effectively by breathing in to the count of four,
and breathing out to a count of six or eight.
Do this easily without straining, for a few minutes before
you start to study. Don't pause between your in-breath and
your out- breath; make the transition smooth and flowing.
Each time you are faced with a learning situation, take the
time to check your breathing. Be sure you are relaxed and
your breath is flowing smoothly.
When you breathe more smoothly, with less tension, your brain
cells will be better able to get the oxygen they need for
you to be a better student!
This article is written by Royane Real, author of
the new book "How You Can Be Smarter -- Use Your Brain to
Learn Faster, Remember Better, and Be More Creative" To learn
more about how to look after your brain better, download it
today at http://www.royanereal.com.
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