Benefits of Breathing Exercises
Good breathing is essential for health. When we breath, we fill our lungs with oxygen, which is taken up by the blood and carried to every organ of the body. The brain, the nerves, the digestive system, the glandular system - everything is dependent on the constant flow of oxygen-rich blood. It is then used to produce energy; it is needed in the production of ATP, adenosine triphosphate, the fuel for cellular energy production.
When our bodies do not get enough oxygen, we become fatigued, irritable, and uninspired. Over time, when organs are deprived of oxygen, they are unable to function properly. Thoughts become dull, the eyes, heart, and lungs become weak, hearing wanes, and the body become vulnerable to diseases, such as cancer. There is a direct link between low levels of oxygen and a poor mental state, even depression.
Many people have fallen into the habit of poor breathing as they age and the circulation of oxygen rich blood slows. There are a number of factors that lead to shallow, poor breathing. Stress, a hurried disposition, emotion, and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute. Breathing exercises can reverse the tendency towards poor breathing. Doing one deep breathing exercise will instantly leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Over time, practicing breathwork on a regular basis, can improve vitality and prevent degenerative disease. The heart will beat stronger, the lungs will be more efficient, digestion will improve and wrinkles will fade. Oxygen promotes the elimination of toxins through the lungs, helping the body reduce harmful waste. Also, your mood will improve and the body will be more capable of dealing with stress. Why does deep breathing calm you down? There are relaxation centers in the brain that are activated by deep breathing. They reduce anxiety and encourage creativity.
How to Do Breathwork
There are many different deep breathing exercises, some are simple, and others are more complicated and should be done under the supervision of a breathworker. To do a simple deep breathing exercise, sit in a comfortable position, with good posture, and preferably in a location with clean air. Inhale deeply through the nose, filling the stomach with air. Next, put the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth and the back of the teeth. Exhale slowly through the mouth - you should be making a hissing sound. Now, repeat the exercise, this time counting to four on the inhale, and counting to eight on the exhale. Slowly increase the duration of the breath, as long as it is comfortable, always exhaling for twice as long as you are inhaling. Do this for five to ten minutes a day.
An example of a breathing exercise from ayurvedic medicine is the ‘breath of fire.’ It encourages the metabolism of fat, making it a useful tool for those trying to lose weight. Again, sitting in a comfortable position, inhale deeply through the nose. Right away, exhale through the nose, this time with force until all the air is released. The next inhale should be automatic. After doing this for one minute, take a minute to rest. Repeat this cycle for five minutes.
Make deep breathing exercises a regular part of your day. They are a simple and effective method to prevent disease, and to bring a feeling of well-being into your life. Breathing is simple, and taken for granted, but it can be a powerful tool to heal.
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Group, 2006).
Lad, Dr. Vasant. “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing.” 1984.
Tree Image, courtesy of Ian Britton
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