The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘breathe’ as 1) to draw air into and expel it from the lungs and 2) LIVE or to be alive.
Did you know that a human being can live about 10 days without food before their body dies? Same body can live 4 to 5 days without water. But this same body, yours or mine, can live only 4 to 5 MINUTES without air before it expires. That is how vital breathing is!
Sure, we all breathe around 20,000 to 25,000 times a day without a thought. But bring your awareness to even one breath and you have an immediate tool to improve your health.
There are two basic reasons we need to breathe properly.
1) It is the only means of supplying our bodies and its various organs with oxygen which is vital for our health and,
2) Breathing is one of the ways to get rid of waste products and toxins from our body.
We all know that our bodies, the cells we are made up of, need oxygen. It is the most important nutrient for proper cell function – of our brain, nerves, glands and other internal organs. The brain requires more oxygen than any other organ. If it doesn't get enough, the result is mental sluggishness; negative thoughts, depression, vision and hearing declines and it will shut down organs if deprived for an extended time.
Scientists have discovered that the chemical basis of energy production in the body is a chemical called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). If something goes wrong with the production of ATP, the result is lowered vitality, disease and premature aging. They have also discovered that oxygen is critical for the production of ATP.
Oxygen supply in our body, however, declines as we get older unless we consciously choose otherwise. Our lifestyle and even our posture can either contribute to or restrict our breathing not just momentarily, but habitually.
If you breathe in a shallow and quick manor, you do not take in enough oxygen to supply your entire body. You can become fatigued because this lack of oxygen will decrease blood flow. Toxins will build up in your system because you are not expelling enough carbon dioxide from your lungs. Since you are not exercising the lungs, their capacity diminishes.
You can change these harmful patterns easily and quickly! This takes conscious effort though. Becoming aware of how you are breathing in any moment is the first step. Notice your next breath. Is it shallow or deep? Are you breathing in your belly or chest? Now take a deeper breath and exhale completely. Feel the difference.
A yoga practice, pranayama, teaches proper breathing techniques. The breath is used as a tool to relax or energize the body and mind. You can take classes just to learn how to breathe correctly.Western medicine is now using breathing techniques to introduce participants to methods that can help decrease stress and anxiety, and increase relaxation. The Mayo Clinic has multiple weekly classes.
So what are the benefits of breathing with awareness? It can transform your life!
1) If you are feeling fatigued and sluggish – breathe. It will energize your body and mind.
2) If you feel stressed and overwhelmed – breathe. It will calm you and relieve tension.
3) If you are worried or fixated on something that has already happened – breathe. It will bring you to the present moment.
4) If you are discouraged and have forgotten your purpose in life – breathe. It will remind you how precious life is and that each breath in this life is a gift you need to appreciate. Make the most of this gift!
5) If you are too busy and scattered during your workday – breathe. It will help you focus and concentrate on the most important task you need to be focusing on right now.
6) If you are exercising – breathe. It will help your muscles function properly and eliminate waste so you are not sore afterward. You might also enjoy the exercise more and therefore stick with it longer.
7) If you are spending time with someone you love – breathe. It will allow you to be present with that person, rather than thinking about work or other things you need to do.
8) If you are moving too fast – breathe. It will remind you to slow down and enjoy life more.