Want to know why we're always saying breathe, breathe deeply, breathe, breathe, breathe? Here is your answer!
That’s right. I want you to take the time to concentrate on your breath. Why? Because most of us do it all wrong. I sure did. Breathing is with us from our beginning to our very end. We can’t live long without it. We can go weeks without food, days without water, but only a matter of minutes without breath.
Let’s consider a Functional inhale/exhale test. It will just take a few minutes to accomplish. Start breathing normally for a couple of minutes. I will continue sharing while we wait for that time to pass. The full instructions for the test are in the next paragraph so you can easily find them for future reference rather than reading through the entire text of this post.
Functional inhale/exhale test: Breathe normally for a couple of minutes, set a timer, and then take as slow an inhale through your nose as you can. Note how long it takes. Rest for about thirty seconds, and then do the same thing on the exhale. If you find that you can inhale or exhale for less than five seconds when you are trying to extend it as long as possible, that is an indication breath needs to become more of a priority.
The resource we have used for much of the content in our program is a wonderful little book we found titled “The Fountain of Youth is Just a Breath Away” by Molly Larkin. It is the best primer we have found on the importance and benefits of breath. Our parameters when selecting resources to share are simple, easy and effective. Most of us are very busy. For that reason, we want to make sure the resources we find for you are on point and this tiny book of 61 pages fits the bill. If you have not yet received a copy, let us know. We always have a supply of them at our studios.
For many years I struggled with breath. Even after I started being mindful of other things, breath still didn’t seem that important to me since I was breathing better than I had for decades. Maybe because I had horrible breathing habits for most of my life since I had allergies as a child and moving to Arizona in my late 20s didn’t help that situation.
You might be asking yourself what is so wrong with how you are breathing and what is the big deal as long as you keep breathing. Let’s ponder a few facts to bring home the importance of our breath.
1. Most people only use 20% of their lung capacity.
2. We breathe on average 20,000 times a day. If you are a chest breather that is like 20,000 shrugs a day. No wonder your shoulders/neck are achy.
3. Our body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breath. If we don’t allow our nose to process as it was designed our internal organs will be picking up the burden and be needing to work overtime to keep you healthy.
4. The brain is only 3% of our body mass but consumes 20-30% of our oxygen intake. It actually uses more oxygen during mental activities such as learning.
5. Each inhale brings in oxygen to begin the process of converting our nutrients into fuel so it is key to digestion.
Let’s pause and get back to our functional breath test. Set a timer (either check with a clock or watch with a second hand or get out your phone and use the stopwatch function), and then take as slow an inhale through your nose as you can. Note how long it takes. Then rest for about 30 seconds. I’ll continue till that time is up.
6. Each exhale is a detoxification.
7. It makes a big difference if we breathe through our nose or our mouth. Our nose is designed to filter out at least 95% of dust particles, bacteria and other airborne objects from entering our lungs. If you breathe through your mouth you don’t get that cleansing and you will find you are in need of greater hydration with your mouth being open so often . . . and most of us don’t drink enough water. Now that’s a conversation for another day’s post.
8. Most of our body’s systems are dependent on our breath being done correctly.
Back to our functional breath test. Take a breath and release the exhale as slowly as you can. Note how long it takes. If you find that you can inhale or exhale for less than five seconds when you are trying to extend it as long as possible, that is an indication breath needs to become more of a priority. Were you surprised? If you would like some assistance in developing a breathing practice, please let us know.
9. A variety of studies have found that lung function and longevity are directly connected and could be used as a tool in general health assessment. In fact, the Framingham Heart Study which lasted 30 years found that the greatest predictor of health and longevity was lung volume.
10. The manner is which we breathe determines which nervous system is activated at any given time. Breathing in and out of our nose down into our belly activates the parasympathetic nervous system which brings about rest and digestion. Breathing through the mouth activates the sympathetic nervous system which is flight or fight mode. Unfortunately, many of us spend our lives in this latter state
Our body is designed for our breath to be a “belly breath” even though oxygen never makes its way to our belly. A proper inhale will cause the diaphragm to push downward which expands the belly while inflating the lungs. At that same time, it is massaging the stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines and kidneys. It aids in our digestion; it stimulates the lymphatic system which is our body’s waste removal system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which keeps us calm. That is a lot for a single breath to do. On the exhale, the diaphragm returns to its original position, expels carbon dioxide and deflates the lungs.
Good breathing techniques can:
As you go through the various modules you will note a common theme. All the systems of the program are synergistic and interrelated. They each have an impact on the other systems. Motion, Breath, Hydration, Nutrition and Sleep. As you continue through the program, watch for those references and they will help to reinforce your own thought process and make it easier to apply the principles to your own program.
Another quick test of your breath is to breathe only in and out of your nose. Allow your inhales and exhales to be approximately the same length. A full breath is the combined time of the inhale and exhale. How many do you accomplish in a minute? 3 to 5 breaths are considered ideal. Most individuals result in 12 to 15 breaths per minute which is too fast and shallow for good health.
Do yourself a favor. It won’t take a great deal of time throughout your day; but, can reap great rewards. For one week take a few breaks to breathe properly throughout your day. Maybe mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, at bedtime. It doesn’t need to be a long time. Just a matter of minutes. You will find a calm will accompany that break. You will find that improved breathing and breath control will become more and more a part of your regular breathing pattern. You just might start recognizing some of the good things that were included in the list above.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Move Well, Stay Healthy, Be Happy, Live your Life with Passion. Bye Bye