We take breathing for granted unless we experience an obvious difficulty with breathing because of illnesses, such as asthma, chronic lung or heart disease, respiratory infections, or sleep apnea. Being tethered to an oxygen tank is a stark and shocking reminder that we cannot survive without oxygen, which we conveniently, and at no cost, get from air.
While the illnesses listed above are some of the most common reasons for breathing difficulties (dyspnea), there are numerous less obvious ones, among them anxiety, depression, fear, anemia, medications, allergies, sinus problems, and nasal obstructions (deviated nasal septum, polyps), as well muscular tension in the neck, shoulders, and back. Even a perfectly natural and healthy event, such as pregnancy, can make it challenging to breathe.
Regular deep breathing is vital to your health.
It is well known that we utilize only 10-20% of the brain’s capacity. It’s not so different when it comes to breathing. While the lungs have a large capacity to take in air, we rarely take advantage of it. To the contrary, most of us have forgotten, or never learned, how to breathe in deeply. Instead we do what is called shallow breathing, taking in only small amounts of air with each breath.
The lungs always retain a certain amount of air in reserve, which we tap into when we exert ourselves in sports, at physical labor, with emotional outbursts, and the body’s increased need for oxygen when fighting an infection or recovering from physical trauma. This reserve air becomes stale over time if we don’t breathe in deeply on a regular basis.
The act of breathing helps to ventilate the lungs, from the very tip behind your collar bone (clavicle) to the very bottom, right above your liver and stomach. Taking a deep breath brings fresh air into every recess of the lungs and removes stale air from them.
Deeper breathing brings more oxygen to all the cells in the body.
Consider that the air contains 21% of oxygen before you breathe it in and only 16% when you breathe it out. The difference of 5% is now being utilized by your body. The more fresh air you take in, the more oxygen will be available to your body for all its metabolic processes, keeping you healthy and alert to enjoy life to the fullest.
Feeling out of breath, light headed, or fatigued with minor exertion, having difficulty concentrating, feeling listless and weak, or lacking motivation may all be signs that the body is running on low fuel, namely oxygen. Oxygen is absolutely fundamental to all life’s processes. Without it, the body cannot break down the food we eat to make more energy. Without energy, there’s no life.
Putting a glass over a candle that’s lit, will slowly extinguish the flame, as the oxygen is consumed by the flame. We are like that flame. We literally “eat up” the oxygen to stay alive, having to replace it with every breath that we take. Hence, the term “air hunger”.
It’s quite easy to get back on the road to health.
With rather minor adjustments to your life style, you can increase your health and enjoyment of life drastically. Here are some ideas:
- Do breathing exercises for a few minutes every day. Instructions can be found for free on the internet or in books and on videos in your local library.
- Open the windows every day and let in the fresh air.
- Go for daily walks, preferably in a park, on a trail, or through a nice neighborhood with lots of shrubs, flowers, and trees.
- Stretch for a few minutes every day when you get up and before you go to bed, preferably near an open window.
- Take many small breaks throughout the working day for a little deep breathing and stretching of the neck, shoulder, and back muscles.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables increase the body’s capacity for oxygen utilization by providing minerals, vitamins and other vital nutrients.
Massage can help you relax physically and emotionally.
Acupuncture (with needles) and acupressure (only finger pressure) can release blockages in the meridians, the body’s energy pathways, to promote general health and well being, as well as assist with deep breathing.
Consider joining a class in Yoga, QiGong, or Tai Chi for wonderful stretching and toning exercises while learning how to utilize breath to the fullest.
Until the next natural healing perspective blog…