Breathing often gets ignored in our efforts to get healthy. However, many experts will agree that it is the single most important aspect of health that can’t be overlooked. If you think about it, breath is life. Our first inhale happens when we’re born and take our first breath and our last exhale occurs when we die. Life in between is just a series of inhales and exhales and without it, our life would end in a matter of minutes.
How we breathe has a great impact on our emotional state and can be either reactive or active in influencing our state of mind. The next time you are agitated, stressed, upset or angry about something, you’ll notice that your breath is unconsciously shallow and irregular. However, what’s amazing is that you can consciously alter the way you are breathing, taking deeper breaths and inhaling more oxygen, and immediately your emotional state will alter and you will become more balanced. Although it may be more difficult to shift your way of thinking in a moment of emotional upset, shifting your breathing can have just as strong of an effect at calming and relaxing you.
There are many health benefits for those who do regular breathing exercises and use breath techniques to center themselves throughout the day. By raising the level of oxygen in the blood, you can lower blood pressure, improve circulation, increase your energy, eliminate toxins by moving lymph fluid throughout the body, relieve stress, extend your life, improve your digestive system, and even promote weight loss by burning more fat and calories (which oxygen promotes). There have also been studies indicating that those who work with their breath respond faster to treatment, no matter what type of health concerns they may be addressing. In other words, proper breathing can positively impact just about every health issue.
There are many programs out there that teach pranayama (yoga science of breathing) techniques that can be implemented easily within a few short minutes daily to produce profound effects. To begin, you can simply try some controlled breathing exercises in which you sit up straight and begin by taking a long deep breath while counting to 4, hold the breath for another count of 4, and then let the breath out slowly while counting to 6, pausing for 2 seconds before beginning the next breath. Doing 8-10 full breaths for 3 rounds, while resting shortly in between rounds, can be a very simple way to consciously begin breathing more easily. Keep in mind that its imperative that you do the breathing exercises on an empty stomach so that digestion doesn’t interfere with the increased oxygen flow.
To learn more advanced breathing techniques, visit a yoga, healing or wellness center, and you’re sure to find programs that focus on the breath. There are also many great books out there where you’ll find detailed descriptions of breathing exercises, many of which can be slightly modified to address specific health conditions. I have personally found a program designed by a guru from India that has been very effective for thousands of people worldwide. However, there are also breathing coaches who can work with you on an individual basis. Find what works best for you and make sure that the techniques you are implementing are safe and productive.
As you start to incorporate breathing practices, be patient as you let yourself get accustomed to your new routine. Although many notice results immediately, for others it may take a bit longer. The instructors of the program I follow taught us that it takes about 40 days to begin to see the many health and wellness benefits. As you increase your lung capacity, you simultaneously increase your life, vitality and overall happiness, so spend the time necessary to work with your breathing to improve your experience of life.
Published On: April 05, 2011