Take a deep breath. No, a really, really deep breath. This time when you exhale, let it out very, very, very slowly. Okay, one more time...breathe in slowly, hold, and exhale. Do you feel better? We, as people, tend to be shallow breathers. I know, because I’m one of them. Modern conveniences and technology have made us more sedentary; therefore, breathing deeply really isn’t necessary. Back in the day, physical labor was normal. There weren’t the modern conveniences of automatic washing machines, dryers, electric ranges, chainsaws, tractors….you get the picture. Our society now primarily sits at work these days. With so much automation, even the more physical laborers have equipment to allow them to work faster. So what’s the big deal?
Shallow breathing has health consequences. Our lungs were meant to be used completely. Shallow breathing only uses a fraction of our lungs; therefore, the lower lobes become compromised. Our lungs need to be exercised too! Our bodies also become more fatigued because of the reduction of oxygen to the rest of the body through circulation. Not taking those deep breathes means we aren’t expelling enough carbon dioxide and toxins build up in each cell. Oxygen reduction in the body can lead to premature aging and a weaker immune system. We as people only use about one-tenth of our lung capacity. It’s enough to get us by, but not enough for a high quality of life or to resist diseases.
On the other hand, deep breathing has many benefits. If you have ever taken a yoga class, it’s all about the breath. In warm up, the participant breathes in slowly and exhales, then breathing in again and holding that breathe for a few seconds before the exhale. This practice allows the oxygen to be used throughout the body and the long exhale releases the carbon dioxide with all those toxins! The good news here is that you don’t have to join a yoga class to get the benefits of deep breathing!
First, breathe in slowly through the nose….count to four, the exhale through the mouth. Do this several times. Feel the tension release in the body and the brain wake up. Feeling stressed? Take several deep breaths and reset your body. Breathing in through the nose allows the circulatory system to function at its best and nourishing that oxygen rich brain. Mouth breathing does not allow as much oxygen through the body which can compromise our health. Heard of sleep apnea? All mouth breathers!!!
Deep breathing through the nose has been shown to improve digestion, function of the nervous system, improve function of the abdominal organs, improve respiratory function, reduces blood pressure and helps prevent heart disease. Deep breathing also has been shown assist in weight control as extra oxygen burns excess fat more efficiently. The best fact is that it reduces stress and promotes relaxation.
No doubt you’ve told someone or been told by someone to “Just take a deep breath; it’s going to be alright.” Now you know that was good advice.
Health bite: Take a deep breath….throughout the day.