They say that in a crisis you should do just two things: breathe in and breathe out.
That actually makes complete sense in light of the fact that breathing is critical for two very basic physiological reasons:
- It supplies us with oxygen, which is essential for our body to function correctly. Oxygen is the most vital nutrient needed by our organs, nerves and glands, and the brain requires it the most of all.
- It’s one of the ways we get rid of toxins and waste products from our body. In fact, breathing purifies our blood.
For these reasons and more, many Eastern disciplines believe that breathing is also a powerful way to control our life force energy.
Why don’t we breathe properly?
Not so long ago, most people spent their days doing manual labour, often out in the fresh air. They were constantly moving and breathing hard, and oxygen therefore flowed freely.
As adults in the modern world, however, we tend to spend long hours sitting, hunched over a computer or in front of a TV. Our core muscles, which work our lungs, are often weak, plus our posture reduces our lung capacity so we breathe much more shallowly than we should.
When we’re even moderately stressed, our muscles tense up and our chest’s ability to expand and contract is reduced, so we end up never completely filling or emptying our lungs. If our stress levels rise further, our body goes into fight or flight response, which results in even shallower breathing.
How can we improve our breathing?
Try this easy exercise:
Stop whatever you’re doing and either sit up straight, shoulders back, or lie down. Take 10 slow, deep breaths through your nose, in and out equally, visualising the air going all the way to the bottom of your lungs and out again. If you place your hand on your abdomen, just below the ribs, it should rise and fall if you are breathing correctly.
Take at least a few minutes every day to focus on breathing well. After a while it will become a habit, and you’ll be rewarded with a body that functions better, a clear, alert mind and a calmness that helps you deal with whatever challenges come your way.
Image credit: Mez Love via Flickr