A River of Well-Being
The power of BREATH
by Jennifer Dhyana Nucci
Breath is everyday magic.
Breath marks your birth. Cessation of breath marks your death.
With each breath your spine undulates, contracting and lengthening;
your cells reach for oxygen and release toxins;
your internal body swims in a subtle rejuvenating motion.
Deep breathing is both a natural body function and a conscious skill to cultivate. Oxygen is our greatest and finest and first source of energy. Surprisingly, only 10% of your energy comes from food and water. 90% of your energy is from cellular respiration: breathing.
With oxygen all your body systems operate and regenerate. Of all your processes, breath removes the greatest percentage of waste from your body. This interplay of energy creation and waste/toxin removal is a biological dance of essential movement in your body that you know well when you’re in tune with how you feel. This exchange, when free and energized, bestows exquisite wellness to every aspect of who you are.
How you breathe is how you live.
Breath initiates. Breath follows through.
Breath breaks all barriers.
Breath helps us to endure.
To gain a greater knowledge of your own breathing habits, you can observe your natural breath several times a day in different circumstances and put descriptive words to your breath: long, short, slow, fast, deep, shallow, smooth, halting, labored, easy, responsive, difficult, expansive, stuck, full, vibrant, absent.. Why is your breath as it is? Your breath mirrors your physical, emotional and psychological states… What is your breath telling you?
When your breath is consistently shallow you begin to experience symptoms of oxygen depletion. Oxygen depletion affects your brain first, because your 3 lb. brain requires about 25% of all the oxygen you take in… affecting your focus and short-term memory, nervous system and all other body systems.
Breathing exercises that teach expansion of breath and flexibility of your diaphragm, breath awareness and perseverance of attention through breath, have been found to be effective in reducing anxiety disorders, depression, muscle tension, headaches, poor concentration, irritability, digestive disorders and fatigue. The deep abdominal breath massages and detoxifies your inner organs and promotes blood and lymph flow.
Breath sharpens the intellect.
Picture your lungs. They’re divided into sections (lobes), within which is the respiratory tree: a latticework of tens of thousands of air carrying tubes (bronchioles) branching to the outer most edges of your lungs, connecting to about 600 million tiny sacs called alveoli, spongy air-filled structures.
Without the vital exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide, cells suffocate and die. How does this happen? When a cell is deprived of oxygen, which it uses to make energy, it tries to make the energy itself. When a cell tries to self-metabolize it creates acid. When the acid builds, the cell becomes poisoned and dies. As cells die the body may subsist, but not flourish.
A 5% increase of breath increases the efficiency of your lungs a thousand fold. Taking a deep breath right now is the beginning of breathing deeper all day. Your deep breathing increases your oxygen concentration, builds your heart, lowering your resting heart rate and strengthens your cardiac muscles.
Babies know best how to breathe.
..how to breathe..
When standing or sitting upright, a loose, relaxed and lifted upper body aids in deep breathing. Your intercostals move freely as your shoulders are relaxed and your ribs, sternum, and even the crown of your head, are softly lifted, creating space up your spine.
When deep breathing involves the respiratory muscles of your chest
and the downward motion of your diaphragm which expands your belly,
and the expansion of your lower ribcage,
and the expansion of your lower, middle and upper back,
then your breath is slower and your parasympathetic nervous system comes on line. This is the ‘relaxation response.’ It harmonizes your nervous system and reduces stress.
Rhythmic deep breathing is nature’s calming embrace,
and can be used to ease pain.
You can access this quality of wellbeing that reduces pain through deep breathing practices which include yogic breathing, humming, toning, chanting or singing regularly every day, and by practicing a meditative movement of some kind: tai chi, chi gong, yoga, dance, walking.. or any movements that increase the capacity and responsiveness of your breath, and that help you to have greater flexibility, relaxation, and confidence in your body.
Cigarette smoke and pollution stay in the lower lobes of the lungs until exertion happens, which is the full exhale, the strongest breathing, and then the waste products are finally pushed out. Most of the blood circulation in your lungs is in the lower lobes; here blood flows at over a liter per minute. Shallow breathing rarely uses the lower lobes of the lungs. Deep breathe the freshest air you can find. Go outside after or in a rainfall. Be drawn to bodies of water for the love of your body. Near fresh water you can breathe the negative ions your body craves.
Oxygen is the master element of cell respiration and energy metabolism. Metabolism is the biochemical activity of your living cells that sustains the life of your cells through growth, reproduction, structural maintenance and response to your physiological environment. As you breathe deeply you create a responsive, flourishing inner environment for your physical activity, emotional balance, spiritual exploration and psychological resilience.
When you inhale you begin the new life of your future from that moment on.
When you exhale you begin the new life of your future from that moment on.
Your diet contributes to or depletes your oxygen levels. Raw foods, fruits, and vegetables are rich in oxygen because of their water and/or chlorophyll content. Meats and animal products do not contain as much oxygen for our bodies. Processed and cooked foods are depleted of oxygen. Some research recommends a diet of 75% raw foods. Junk foods use up oxygen and deplete your body more than they give to your body in every aspect of nutrition and energy. Complex carbohydrates are rich in oxygen. Fat has about 15% oxygen, protein has about 20% to 40% oxygen. Taking time to notice how you feel after you eat different kinds of foods and different kinds of diets, can give you insight as to the balance that your individual body needs.
Four stresses to be aware of because of their oxygen depleting qualities: (You can deep breathe as you read and notice your immediate ability to effect positive change in your body.)
1. Stress from environmental toxins: polluted air, pesticides, herbicides, chemicals. Detoxifying is a main job of oxygen. You need a lot to detox, so take a deep breath.
2. Physical stress: occurs as a result of lack of oxygen from exertion or because of injury, or trauma, incessant busyness, or even because of violent or damaging thoughts. When cells are physically stressed they need extra oxygen just to function.
3. Emotional stress: emotions that trigger our adrenals, (fight or flight or freeze) use high volumes of oxygen, as do low levels of chronic emotional stress. Your deep, steady breath instantly begins to soothe.
4. Stress from infection or disease: oxygen is needed to clear away harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses, most of which are anaerobic, meaning they cannot thrive in an oxygen rich environment.
An oxygen rich, deep breathed body has a built in natural strength of immunity and quick cleansing action toward such stresses.
To help yourself, you can begin a practice of breath awareness and breath exercises that you do for short periods (a few minutes), many times a day, improve your diet and drink more water, and notice if your symptoms ease. As you feel the benefits of your improved breathing, this will be your inspiration to continue into a life style change for your enduring wellness.
Notice the behavior of breath:
Your breath is shallow when you habitually live in a half awake state. Your breath becomes shallow or stops when fear takes over or a state of shut down is beginning.
Breath becomes shallow when embodiment disperses into unembodied bliss, such as in deep states of meditation. AND breath becomes shallow in sleep.
There are ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ experiences of your breath becoming shallow. Perceive your breath.
When your breath is strong and full it’s often from exertion or conscious deep breathing, or simply that you’re experiencing happiness and your big inhale reflects a willingness and freedom to breathe life in to-the-full. Sometimes we find ourselves taking a natural deep breath because we’re relaxed and refreshingly energized about life to some degree. Here too, perceive the qualities of your breath. Notice the circumstances and situations that infuse you with wellness. What’s happening around you in your life? Where are you.. the place that you’re in? What is your mind engaged with.. what are you thinking about? How connected do you feel with your life and the people in your life in the moments when you naturally fall into a deep breath? When you notice such things you build your own storehouse of self knowledge that is responsive to the changes that are ever occurring. It is true that life is change, and so this is one reason that your breath responds with so many various qualities. Your breath is a present moment gauge to the subtleties of what you’re feeling, but your experience is yours and the more you learn about yourself the better able you are to relax and respond with a sense of resiliency. A resiliency that becomes wiser and stronger over time.
Breath relaxes the miraculous muscles of birth and then proclaims new life.
Breath opens the heart and makes room for love.
Breath jumps for joy.