We can survive without food for weeks, without water for days, but only for seconds without air.
The primary function of breathing is to deliver oxygen to the tissues, take carbon dioxide out of the body and regulate the acidity of our blood. Our billions of cells need to breathe. They need to receive oxygen and return carbon dioxide, the waste product of metabolic activities within the cells. The lungs pass oxygen from the air we breathe into the blood, which is carried to the cells. The circulating bloodstream also carries the waste gases, and the lungs expel carbon dioxide on our outgoing breath.
Oxygen could then be described as our most essential food.
The efficient exchange of oxygen and elimination of carbon dioxide enhances the cellular function of the brain, organs, and tissues of the body, assists in fluid movement, maintains spinal mobility through regular movement of the rib cage and thorax and enhances digestive function. Breathing directly impacts every cell in the body & assists in modulation of the nervous cardiovascular & digestive systems.
Improper breathing contributes to heart disease, obesity, muscular and skeletal injuries, and anxiety or tension. Most of our breathing is done unconsciously. If your breathing is shallow, it may lead to negative effects on your health.
A great number of people have lost the technique of using their respiratory muscles and lungs with adequate elasticity. In effect, the bloodstream is not being fully oxygenated, and the food is not being adequately burned in the body to provide energy. Millions of Americans, as a result, can suffer from mood problems and stress related issues including anxiety, depression, insomnia and trauma-induced emotions and behaviors. Poor breathing also impacts your concentration, gives you unhealthy skin, and creates various types of pain, such as chest pain, headaches, neck pain, upper back pain, and numbness. This is probably because your chest and upper body muscles have to work hard if you don’t engage your diaphragm while you breathe.
Under breathing can also raise carbon dioxide levels in our blood, which over time can be harmful. Short, shallow breathing causes a cascade of negative effects on the body, and the body associates that with the flight-or-fight response. It raises the cortisol, adrenaline and stress chemicals.
Breathing techniques of traditional practices such as qigong and yoga can improve one’s overall health. Through the practice of pranayama or breathing exercises, the respiratory muscles and lungs function more effectively.
The result is an increase in vitality, improvement of air processing in the lungs, purification in the blood, calming and toning in the nervous system. It relaxes the body and mind. Proper breathing manages stress, anxiety, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and even sparks brain growth when paired with meditation! Research is finding that controlled breathing can even alter the expression of the genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism, and insulin secretion.
With all the knowledge available regarding the benefits of proper breathing and breathing exercises, it makes sense to be consciously aware of our breathing as often as possible. It should absolutely be included in all our fitness and wellness activities. Proper breathing is proven to contribute to a healthier body and mind!