Take a breath

“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.”
Andrew Weil, M.D., 1999

I’ve mentioned breathing in a couple of previous articles – in terms of consciously slowing it down in order to relax and also taking deep breaths in combination with stretching exercises.

Like water, oxygen is a vital ingredient to the efficient and effective running of our complex body systems.

How we breathe can make a difference to our health and it’s easy to take steps to improve the condition of our respiratory system providing there’s no underlying permanent damage.

“Breathe the old out and the new in.” (Adage of Taoist Breathing Practices (Tu Na). By improving the depth of our breathing we are aiming aim to a) get in as much fresh air to our lungs as possible so more oxygen gets into our blood and through to our organs, muscles, brain, all our cells in fact and b) get rid of carbon dioxide. A normal adult will breathe 15 to 17 times (an in and out breath) a minute, so start counting

I notice some people seem reluctant to take really deep breaths, so banish your inhibitions and while you’re reading this take the deepest possible breath, right into your tummy – as though you’re preparing to blow out all the candles on your birthday cake in one breath! You can’t over-inflate your lungs – there is a mechanism in the body which stops that happening. Then blow out through your mouth as hard as you can and visualise getting rid of as much ‘waste’ or residual air as possible. The volume of this residual air increases with age and inactivity but we can help to halt or even reverse the situation by taking aerobic exercise and practising deep breathing.

When we do aerobic exercise* we increase our lung capacity, get rid of more of the residual stale air and pump freshly oxygenated blood round our body.
In between aerobic exercise or if you are unable to do aerobic exercise because of a medical condition, concentrate on taking some slower, deeper breaths which, as well as ‘capturing’ more oxygen, gives more time for oxygen to enter your bloodstream.

If you come for a treatment, I will often encourage you to take some slow, deep breaths at some stage, so how about starting to practice the candle-blowing technique now?
*Aerobic exercise – any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature. It is a type of exercise that overloads the heart and lungs and causes them to work harder than at rest.


‘Southwell Life’ – May 2006

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