Make your own free website on Tripod.com

THE IMPORTANCE OF BREATHING

Importance of Healthy Breathing

We know how to breathe. It is something that occurs to us automatically, spontaneously, naturally. We are breathing even when we are not aware of it. So it seems foolish to think that one can be told how to breathe. Yet,one's breathing becomes modified and restricted in various ways, not just momentarily, but habitually. We develop unhealthy habits without being aware of it. We tend to assume positions (slouched positions) that diminishes lung capacities and take shortened breaths. We also live in social conditions that is not good for the health of our respiratory system.

Scientists have known for a long time that there exists a strong connection between respiration and mental states. Improper breathing produces diminished mental ability. The corollary is true also. It is known that mental tensions produce restricted breathing. A normally sedentary person, when confronted with a perplexing problem, tends to lean forward, draw his arms together, and bend his head down. All these body postures results in reduced lung capacity. The more intense the concentration, the more tense the muscles become. The muscles in the arms, neck and chest contract. The muscles that move the thorax and control inhalation and muscular tenseness clamp down and restrict the exhalation. The breaths become shorter and shorter. After an extended period of intense focusing, the whole system seems to be frozen in a certain posture.

We become fatigued from the decreased circulation of the blood and from the decreased availability of oxygen for the blood because we have almost stopped breathing. Same goes as being "Angry" with someone or something. Our bodies will naturally tense up, and our breathh becomes more rapid and shallow. It is why we seem to get exhaustive after a negative emotional event. As we unwind or "calm" down, we feel the tiredness and easing of muscle tensions.

We develop habits of forgetting to breathe. Try an experiment. Focus attention upon the ticks of a clock placed at a distance of about twelve feet. If you get distracted, try concentrating harder until you experience the ticking with undivided attention. If you fail at first, you should try again and again until you succeed in keeping the ticking clearly in mind for at least a few seconds. What happened? The majority of persons who took part in this experiment reported that they have completely suspended the breath. The others, who had less concentration, reported that they experienced very slow breathing. This experiment shows clearly that where there is concentration of the mind, the breathing becomes very slow or even get suspended temporarily.

What's Wrong With The Way We Breathe?

Our breathing is too shallow and too quick. We are not taking in sufficient oxygen and we are not eliminating sufficient carbon dioxide , As a result, our bodies are oxygen starved, and a toxic build-up occurs. Every cell in the body requires oxygen and our level of vitality is just a product of the health of all the cells. Shallow breathing does not exercise the lungs enough, so they lose some of their function, causing a further reduction in vitality. Animals which breathe slowly live the longest; the elephant is a good example. We need to breathe more slowly and deeply. Quick shallow breathing results in oxygen starvation which leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system and a myriad of other factors.

Why Is Our Breath Fast and Shallow?

There are several reasons for this. The major reasons are:

  1. We are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern.

  2. The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply.

  3. We get too emotional too easily. We get excited easily, angry easily, and most of the rest of the time we suffer from anxiety due to worry. These negative emotional states affect the rate of breathing, causing it to be fast and shallow.

  4. Modern technology and automation reduces our need for physical activity. There is less need to breathe deeply, so we develop the shallow breathing habit.

  5. We are working indoors more and more. This increases our exposure to pollution. As a result, the body instinctively inhales less air to protect itself from pollution. The body just takes in enough air to tick over.

  6. As we go through life, these bad breathing habits we picked up become part of our life. Unless we do something to reverse these habits, we can suffer permanent problems. The good news is that these are reversible. The bad news is that before we can change these habits, we should recognize and accept that our behavior needs to be changed. This means that we see for ourselves the benefits of good breathing techniques.

    Deep breathing exercises and stretching of muscles, especially those primarily concerned with controlling inhaling and exhaling, should be sought. Participation in active sports also will be useful. Going for a walk is very good. For those experiencing restricted breathing at night, morning exercises should be actively pursued.

    The Effects of Shallow Breathing

    1. Reduced vitality, since oxygen is essential for the production of energy in the body.

    2. .Increased disease. Our resistance to disease is reduced, since oxygen is essential for healthy cells. This means we catch more colds and develop other ailments more easily. Lack of sufficient oxygen to the cells is a major contributing factor in cancer, heart disease and strokes.

    3. With our 'normal' sedentary way of living, we only use about one tenth of our total lung capacity. This is sufficient to survive and just tick over, but not sufficient for a high vitality level, long life and high resistance to disease. The ancient yogis and buddhaist knew the importance of correct breathing and developed techniques not only to increase health and life span, but also to attain superconscious states.

      An editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggested that fast, shallow breathing can cause fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, stomach upsets, heart bum, gas, muscle cramps, dizziness, visual problems, chest pain and heart palpitations. Scientists have also found that a lot of people who believe they have heart disease are really suffering from improper breathing.

      Note On Safety

      If you are suffering from a breath related problem such as asthma, emphysema, shortness of breath etc. it is only common sense to talk to your physician and get a clearance before embarking on to serious breathing exercises. There are some breathing exercises that can induce dizziness or loss of consciousness. If you are prone to dizziness or loss of consciousness, avoid these exercises or assume a suitable posture to minimize problems during the exercise (such as lying down rather than standing up.)

      Keep in mind that the biggest problem encountered by beginning "Breathing Excerises" are the tendency to push beyond the limits. These exercises should be done so that it is enjoyable. Know your limits. Do not push it so that it become hard on you. If you proceed slowly and carefully, you can attain the ultimate in yoga. But it may take sometime. Remember, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’

      Following good general principles

      1. Breathing exercises should never be pushed to the point of weariness or exhaustion.
      2. Exercises should not be repeated too often.
      3. They should not be merely mechanical.
      4. There should be no hurry or haste.
      5. Attention should be concentrated on the exercise while it is being performed.
      6. There should always be variety and change in the exercises.
      7. Exercise should always be gentle and nonviolent.
      8. Breathing should not be jerky or irregular, but smooth, steady and continuous.

      Breathing practices emphasize conscious breathing. As long as we pay close attention to the reaction of the body during these breathing practices, we have nothing to fear.

      MEDITATION EXCERISE 1

      MORE RESOURCES ON BREATHING EXCERISES