Yes that one you just took, and that one that just magically happened.
You entered this world with a breath, and it’s the very last thing you do as you leave this world, the beginning and the end. Perhaps it’s well worth taking a brief sojourn into this thing we call breathing.
Something that happens automatically about 16 times a minute, 960 times an hour; 23,040 times a day and 8,409,600 times a year. By the time you are 50, you would have taken around 400 million breaths, yet you seldom take a moment to think about this thing you do so often, unless off course it is taken away for a few seconds, then I believe you may just notice.
What do you think breathing does? Yes it keeps you alive of course, it also gives you oxygen, creates energy and expels co2.
What it also does
Among other things, just a few worth noting:
- Regulates heart rate & the nervous system
- Influences hormones & blood flow
- Influences body temperature
- Boosts the immune system
- Expels fat & toxins from the body
- Influences metabolism
- Alters the pH in the blood
- Positive impact on mental health
Deep v. shallow breathing
Most of your breaths are unfortunately far too shallow, and deep breathing, the thing we need most feels so unnatural, even though this is what we were naturally born to do. Deep breathing is the kind of breath you will see a baby take, it’s breathing from the diaphragm. It’s a natural, inaudible inhalation that makes the belly rise and fall gently.
Deep breaths are far more efficient, allowing your body to fully exchange incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide. It slows down the heartbeat, stabilising blood pressure, lowering stress and improving oxygen flow to the brain (a few more really useful things proper breathing can do).
Now you realise why, when we are stressed out or anxious, we are told to JUST BREATHE.
I have been doing a shit load of “just breathing” lately and I can tell you, it certainly has delivered a sense of calm when I personally thought I totally deserved to lose IT.
Shallow breathing, breathing that does not engage the diaphragm on the other hand increases blood pressure and heart rate. Oh, and among other things it is linked to aspects of anxiety. Yet this is what most of us, and our children do more than 20,000 times a day.
Why you may be asking? Because we spend so much of our time constantly slumped at our desks, or on a couch. This unfortunately results in us breathing predominantly into the upper chest without even knowing it.
Science and spirit
There is a huge amount of science behind this breathing thing, however one thing that’s important to know is that deep breathing is not quite the same as taking a “big breath”. It is not my intention for this blog to unpack all the science behind breathing, it is simply here to remind you that your breath may be far more important than you have ever really given it credit for.
It’s asking you too slow down, take a moment and learn a bit about this automatic thing you do so often over a lifetime. It could well fundamentally change your health, your sleep, your muscular system and your overall quality of life, to name a few of the amazing things your breath is essentially linked to.
Patrick McKeown, who wrote The Breathing Cure, was asthmatic, and as such an extremely dysfunctional breather. He was told by his doctors that he would be on medication and limited in activities for the rest of his life. Well, he cured himself through breathing practices. I would suggest his book, or for the non readers his You Tube videos.
It’s no wonder we read about the breath of life in so many spiritual teachings, across cultures, generations and timelines. It is said that your breathing connects the core of your physical well-being to your mental and spiritual abilities. In fact Sadhguru tells us that breath is not merely the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, he states that whichever way you breathe, that is the way you think. Whichever way you think, that is the way you breathe.
Will you take the time to invest in your breath? It is after all a matter of life and death don’t you think?
Oh, and remember that the nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating.