Take a Deep Breath: Expand Your Health and Vitality
Breathing is one of the most important functions of the body, and it is the only automatic bodily function necessary for survival over which you have complete control. Your body will breathe without you knowing (in case you forget!), but you can also speed up, slow down or stop breathing at will. It is the connection between our subconscious and conscious mind (the cerebrum and cerebellum respectively), and provides the oxygen required by all of your body’s cells.
Ideally, your inhalations and exhalations should be of equal length. When you take a deep breath your stomach should expand, and when you breathe out your stomach should flatten. When the belly expands, it provides room for the diaphragm to move down. This allows for the bottom of your lungs to fill with air. The lower compartments of the lungs are the largest and, therefore, allow for the best oxygen exchange between the air you are breathing and your blood.
Most people use their chest for breathing (as opposed to “belly breathing”). Chest breathing requires your muscles to work harder and impedes the extent to which your lungs can open. The top lobes of the lungs that open with chest breathing are small, thus limiting the amount of air that can be brought in which, in turn, impacts blood oxygen levels.
Shallow breathing causes the deep parts of the lungs to go stagnant and allows bacteria and viruses to build. This preludes a host of problems for the immune system and leads to chronic flu and colds. Taking a deep breath increases oxygen in your blood; and if you take a deep breath on a regular basis, your body will return to a state of parasympathetic activity (healing, digestion, reproductive system.) Ninety-nine per cent of the time, breathing is unconscious (without your knowing), but your body can be trained to breathe in a manner most optimal to your well-being.
Breathing is a focused component of many physical and mental activities such as yoga and martial arts. And for anyone who would like to begin meditating, deep breathing is a major component and one of the easiest techniques by which to begin a practice.
So take a deep breath in while counting to five, hold it for two seconds, and breathe out for a count of five. Repeat this sequence every morning, before going to sleep at night and anytime throughout the day when you feel stressed.