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Issue 89: Just Breathe

Breathing correctly can reduce stress, provide energy and adequately oxygenate your brain & body, so take a deep breath…and read on. 

Most of us probably don’t give breathing a second thought. After all, it is pretty much automatic, so we really don’t have to remember to breathe. It’s a pretty big deal, too—this breathing thing. Did you know that we take in over 20,000 breaths per day, totaling about 35 pounds of air? It all adds up, too, because over an average lifetime, that’s about 625 million breaths!

Of course, breathing is essential to life, but did you know that correct and maximized breathing is essential to overall health? All of us breathe just to stay alive, but most of us access only 10% to 20% of our full breathing capacity, which can leave us short of energy—among other things. Proper breathing increases the flow of oxygen to our brains, our cells, and to our bodies, while reducing toxic buildup in the lungs and cleansing the blood.

You may be wondering just what can impair such a natural thing as breathing. Stress, anxiety, being overweight, cramped or lazy posture, restrictive clothing and lack of exercise can all contribute to poor breathing and/or poor lung capacity. For example, the body responds to stress by taking rapid, shallow breaths, but breathing slowly and deeply can reduce that stress response.

Proper, deep breathing can take some practice, though. For most of us, if we take a deep breath, we pull in our abdominal area and raise our shoulders—but this is still shallow breathing, according to Dennis Lewis who leads breathing awareness workshops.

In his article Deep Breathing, Lewis says “we need to understand the function of the chest and diaphragm in breathing, as well as the function of the belly, lower ribs, and lower back. We also need to observe how unnecessary tension in our muscles impedes our breathing.”

By inhaling deeply, however, it allows your lungs to breathe in as much oxygen as possible. Deep breathing includes not only the respiratory muscles of the chest, but also the belly, lower ribcage and the lower back.

In the article It's Easy When You Don't Try, breathing is explained: “Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body, from your brain to your vital organs. Without sufficient oxygen, your body becomes more susceptible to health problems.

For example, in a study published in The Lancet, cardiac patients who took 12 to 14 shallow breaths per minute (six breaths per minute is considered optimal) were more likely to have low levels of blood oxygen, which "may impair skeletal muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance."

In contrast, deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health in many ways — from stimulating the digestive process to improving fitness and mental performance. Alternative health icon Dr. Andrew Weil says, "If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly."

Perhaps best of all, deep breathing can be done anywhere at any time. It’s amazing the difference that just breathing properly can make in your health.

Give it a try! 


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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