Breath is life…

The moment you are born you need to fill your lungs with air, if you don’t, you get a smack on the bottom to get you to cry which causes you suck in the life-giving air you need to survive. Since then, when was the last time you took a really deep breath?  I mean through your nose, from your abdomen, and then exhaled through your mouth. If you haven’t in a while, I suggest you do it now; and often. If you do it right, it takes approximately 10-15 seconds, depending on your lung capacity and how deeply you actually breathe. To get even more benefits it’s a good idea to hold the breath you have inhaled for a moment or two before you exhale, and exhale slowly so you can feel the benefits. Notice how much better you feel; probably you feel more alive, more positive and calmer, even energized. That’s because deep abdominal breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain stem down through your abdomen. This is the main nerve of the relaxation response.  Once stimulated, the vagus activates a chemical compound called acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter that reduces inflammation and sends messages from your brain throughout your body. All those messages say, “RELAX.” And new research shows that the stimulated vagus nerve also activates stem cells that actually repair brain tissue damaged by inflammation; an added bonus; all of those good things, just from taking a deep breath. WOW, and it’s free, easy, and hopefully habit-forming!

Unfortunately most people really don’t breathe well,  thereby taxing their biological physiological systems to the max!  They breathe shallow short breaths from high in their chest and then wonder why they get tired and tense!  Do you tend to yawn a lot?  You may think its boredom, (which is lack of stimulation to the brain), or that you are tired. That sleepy feeling is actually a result of the brain being deprived of oxygen, so it forces you to take a deeper breath; often times you find yourself stretching, too, instinctively aiding the process of getting blood flow to  your brain and other parts of your body.

Poor breathing habits are one of the reasons people can’t think clearly, or focus well and tend to forget easily. The brain needs oxygen to work properly, and the nerves and muscles in your body need it to do the work you require of them. That’s why it’s recommended to breathe better, and that you exercise; not just because it feels so good, (for all the reasons you already know, i.e. fitness) you automatically breathe more efficiently while exercising, as well as when you are physically active…your heart beats faster and your lungs expand more which in turn it increases blood circulation all over your body and very importantly, to your brain.

Proof of the value of improved breathing for the brain and overall feelings of well-being is that depressed people are always encouraged to exercise because they get genuine mood uplift from exercise, (actually we all do). And it works!  One of the things depressed people need most is to get more blood carrying oxygen and other healthy mood enhancing chemicals into their brains. While exercising you produce endorphins (those feel good chemicals) because you naturally breathe more deeply. When a person is in pain or anxious, they are often told to take some really deep breaths; anxiety is often a large component of pain and depression, so you can see why getting consistently deeper breaths can be helpful to help you feel good.

Almost every method taught by almost every self-help system employs breath as a way to begin the relaxation process/response and to help the subjects focus.  Some meditation techniques, including Yoga, employ breathing as the primary method. It’s the initiation process I use when I’m teaching people self-hypnosis. In fact most hypnotists I know of begin their inductions with breathing techniques.

In many cases I need to teach my clients how to breathe better. I’ve noted some people even have to be reminded to breathe, especially when they are tense. Tension is a result of not having adequate blood flow to your brain and nervous system.  Keep in mind that your mind is always influencing all of your body functions; you see your body is, in many respects a mirror of your mind. That’s why I teach Mind Mastery, so people can learn to control what they do in their heads which in turn gives them an enormous amount of control of their bodies. The meditative breathing exercise I teach my Mind Mastery students naturally results in improved breathing in general.

Body aches and pains are also signs of poor breathing because the muscles and nerves are not getting their fair share of blood. Of course you know that blood carries oxygen and nutrients and other crucial resources to every cell in your body. Tension can cause a person to hold his or her breath, which exacerbates stress and results in myriad other discomforts. The old Cole Porter song says, “A sigh is just a sigh,” however, a sigh is also another way for you to breathe in more air:  I’m sure you have at times breathed a sigh of relief.

So now and then throughout your days, take note of your breathing.

When you realize your breaths are too short and shallow, and that you are doing mostly mouth breathing, correct yourself.  Develop good breathing habits and notice your overall sense of well-being improves, you’ll be aware that you have more energy, you concentrate better, you are better in every way.

Breathe easy and well, TTFN and all the best from Elaine Kissel.