Imagine living in a future world where people are not taught how to breathe. What if, instead of teaching citizens about this vital subject, the government ignored the matter? What if there were no schools teaching breathing as part of their health instruction? What if there were no Say Yes to Breath™ program to correct the stress breathing that otherwise begins robbing people of life, even as children? What would happen if people were left, abandoned, to let nature take its course and became habitual shallow breathers?
What if there were no Breathers Anonymous to help overcome the resistance to deep, full breathing and the addiction to stress chemistry? What would be the consequence of such a planned or even innocent ignorance regarding a natural process affecting 85 percent of individual biochemistry and responsible for the elimination of 70 percent of bodily toxic waste?
The future result would reveal a nation with a generally unhealthy population experiencing high levels of obesity and sluggishness, lowered metabolic rates, and decreased energy and activity. There would be a general dullness of mind as well that would spill over to their offspring. This is because the brain doesn’t work well without ample supplies of oxygen. The normally small amount available through shallow breathing is shunted off for survival purposes instead of cognitive or creative ones. The emotions shut down, and the muscles tense, producing fatigue.
Since their breathing would be impaired, we could expect the general population to suffer from tension headaches and poor digestive and eliminative processes. Their “plumbing” systems could expect to decline as well. They would become a nation reliant on over-the-counter pain killers and stomach remedies, liniments, and laxatives. In addition, to deal with mood swings, the general public would become reliant on stimulants to energize their bodies and depressants to calm them. Their drugs of choice would become caffeine and alcohol, which, used excessively, would undermine their health and peace of mind.
Corporations, schools, and institutions would have personnel and performance problems. Their workers, shallow breathers, would be more anxious and impulsive, displaying unbalanced emotions and, often, high blood pressure. They’d operate in a perpetual panic mode, as if life were a fight or flight situation. They wouldn’t sleep very well either or live as long as those with greater vital capacity. They would make mistakes that affect the quality of their work and lower the company profits while increasing health care costs.
Can you imagine a world where only a few, plus some athletes and singers, have incorporated deep breathing into their lives? Wouldn’t it be strange to live in a society where the average sixty-year-old had half the vital capacity remaining of the amount that was present at age thirty—when the lungs themselves don’t shrink?
The citizenry would also notice their immune function declining as aging took place. Even more insidious would be the growth of a chronic stress syndrome that characterizes the life of the shallow breather. Shallow breathing produces stress, which causes shallow breathing—and, unless interrupted and corrected, leads to discomfort and disability. Eventually, the entire mind-body system would become debilitated, and the body’s natural tendency toward self-healing would be compromised.
You can do your part to prevent this future from occurring by learning to breathe in ways that uplift you, rather than drain you. It is a simple thing to do. You have read popular articles in magazines and on the Web telling you to manage your stress with deep breathing. What is left untold, however, is how to do it, how to avoid habitual shallow breathing, and how to make deeper breathing a habit.
The process requires only moderate focus and minimal effort. The muscles of the diaphragm, left unused by “normal” chest breathing, become flaccid and ineffective over time. You can recondition them in as little as a month. The exercise to restore them and increase vital capacity is simple in its mechanics, yet highly significant in the benefits it provides.
By practicing as outlined below, you can begin to retrain your normally shallow—and life draining—breathing to that of habitual, deep, life-enriching breathing. It is a simple thing to understand, although more difficult to create as a habit with its profound benefits to mind and body. Practice this breathing exercise for thirty days, and you will transform the way you feel—and your life!
Set aside one-half hour daily—six days a week—to complete the process. This period is broken up into activity and stillness. Find a place that is quiet and where you won’t be interrupted. Adjust your surroundings for comfort. Begin with five to fifteen minutes daily, progressing toward a goal of one hundred continuous cycles of inhalations and exhalations during one exercise session. Meditate and rest before resuming activities.
* Sit, recline, or lie down face-up in a relaxed position.
* After pursing your lips and blowing out any stale air by drawing the abdomen back toward the spine with the initial exhalation, inhale and distend the lower abdomen as if filling a balloon. The diaphragm flexes, and the lungs fill naturally.
* When the lungs are filled, relax and allow the exhalation to take place with no effort.
* Next, without a pause between the exhalation and inhalation, inhale once more.
* Repeat this process up to a count of one hundred breaths at a slow and full pace of six breaths per minute to balance brain hemispheres.
The active part of the exercise takes less than seventeen minutes. Most of us will breathe faster than six breaths each minute, and the actual time to reach one hundred breaths will vary with the individual. Out of the thirty minutes allocated, any time remaining after the active breathing is for you to rest.
Allow your breathing to return to normal and rest, watching your breathing. You will know when you are through resting when you feel energized and relaxed, ready to resume your activity.
You can breathe through the nostrils or the mouth for the purpose of the exercise. Normal breathing should be performed by breathing through the nostrils. I prefer to have beginners breathe through the mouth because it almost doubles the intake of oxygen for detoxification and energization. Any resulting dizziness experienced is a result of the brain adapting to accommodate an increase in oxygen and usually passes within a few days. Consider any discomfort as a signal to slow the rate of breathing and rest. Conclude the exercise by resting for a few minutes afterward and before returning to your normal activities.
Now that you know how to reverse the otherwise inevitable decline of breathing function that results in impaired oxygenation and function, it is a basic matter. Either you want to live to your fullest, or you don’t. You will either be a victim of aging, or you won’t. You will either allow yourself to slowly fade away, dependent on drugs and medicines, or not. Which choice would an intelligent person make who desired to be at his best? With all the lifestyle choices you get to make about your diet and exercise habits, remember the importance of oxygen and breathing to your life and Say Yes to Breath.
** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html
Tom Goode, ND, DD, developer of Full Wave Breathing, is the author of several books, including The Holistic Guide to Weight Loss, Anti-Aging and Fat Prevention, and Help Kids Cope with Stress and Trauma. His latest e-book, Fully Alive!, is available on his Web site at http://www.internationalbreathinstitute.com. He provides a free newsletter on holistic and alternative health. His other Web sites are http://www.inspiredparenting.net, providing holistic parenting information and a free newsletter, and http://www.acpi.biz, providing information about owning your own business as a parent coach. His speaker’s Web site is http://www.drtomgoode.com. He and his wife, Dr. Caron Goode, live in Fort Worth, Texas.