Breathing gives, and is, Life

We start life in this world by drawing our first breath and exhaling it (usually) with a cry!

Breathing is considered the most important of all the functions of the body because all the other functions depend upon it.  A person can exist several days without food, fewer days without drinking but only minutes without breathing.

Because respiration is an automatic function and takes care of itself, it is considered unnecessary to do anything about it.  The result is that today most people only breathe enough to keep them alive.  Their breathing is so shallow that they are using only about a quarter of their lung capacity.  The breath that consists mainly of oxygen permeates every cell in the body and is the force for the renewal and revitalizing of every cell.  Therefore, by breathing more fully and deeply not only do you improve your health but also the quality of your life.

Although inhalation and exhalation are done spontaneously, it can be controlled consciously.  Conscious, deep breathing should not be too difficult to do for one do it without being aware of it – it takes place while you sleep!  By practicing deep breathing consciously we will become aware of our breathing and hopefully better it.  So, when you inhale, let your ribs expand sideways – starting from the bottom up.  The diaphragm will move down and the belly will rise slightly so as to increase the lung capacity.  The entire inhalation should be done gently and effortlessly.  With the exhalation you use a slight pressure to push the complete air out; by pulling the belly slightly back.

“Discover your lungs” by practicing deep breathing whenever you get a chance; for example, waiting in a queue, in the car and especially before you go to sleep.  By practicing deep breathing we not only oxygenate our brains and clear our minds but we also improve the blood circulation and the functioning of the immune system.

Breath and emotions are also closely linked:  when we are frightened, we gasp in and hold our breath; when tired or bored, we take a long breath in and out – we yawn; when angry our breath is irregular and when tense of full of worries, we breathe shallow.  But it is possible to reduce the effect of emotional turbulence by bringing the breath under control by breathing more evenly and deeply.  This will calm the nerves and steady the mind.  We are not only dependent on our breath for life.

Our capacity to breathe well will often determine our vitality level.  Be being present energetically we can affect our everyday life and “embrace the blessing we have received.”  Through the ages different kinds of breathing exercises have been used to attain specific results.  This will be discussed at a later stage.

In Yoga there are 2 ways of breathing:  one to get warm and another to cool the body. The warming breath: Take a deep breath in and breathe out forcefully, contracting the abdominal muscles.  Immediately breathe in again with the same force, expanding the abdominal muscles.  Continue for 10 breathes.  This is one round.  Repeat 3 – 5 rounds. The cooling breath:  Curl your tongue into a straw, so to speak.  Inhale and exhale whilst the tongue is curled.  This can be done for as long as is comfortable and/or when you feel you have cooled down.

Lastly; for all the hikers and joggers out there.  If you find you are getting tired whilst not walking, hiking or jogging for a long period, breathe slower than your walking- or jogging-pace.  In other words, when you inhale and exhale at the same speed, albeit slower than your pace, you will not get tired too soon!  Breathing is vital to all living things; including nature!  Without the right amounts of oxygen and Co2, life on earth will not survive.  As you breathe, be grateful that you are alive.  Go out as much as you can, into the fresh air, and breathe in life itself!

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