Breathing: why is it so important?

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Deep breathing infuses the blood with extra oxygen and also stimulates the body to release tranquilizing endorphins. It is one of the simplest yet most effective stress management techniques. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it becomes even more effective with practice.

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from an article on Holisticonline.com

The importance of breathing

Breathing is important for two reasons:

  1. It supplies the oxygen that is so vital for our survival.
  2. It is one means to get rid of waste and toxins from the body.

Why is oxygen so vital?

For a long time, lack of oxygen has been considered a major cause of cancer. Even as far back as 1947, work done in Germany showed that when oxygen was withdrawn, normal body cells could turn into cancer cells. Similar research has been done with heart disease. It showed that lack of oxygen is a major cause of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

What’s wrong with the way we breathe?

Our breathing is too shallow and too quick. We are not taking in sufficient oxygen and we are not eliminating sufficient carbon dioxide. As a result, our bodies are oxygen starved, and a toxic build-up occurs. Every cell in the body requires oxygen and our level of vitality is just a product of the health of all the cells. Shallow breathing does not exercise the lungs enough, so they lose some of their function, causing a further reduction in vitality. Animals, which breathe slowly, live the longest; the elephant is a good example. We need to breathe more slowly and deeply. Quick shallow breathing results in oxygen starvation which leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system and a myriad of other factors.

 

Why Is Our Breath Fast and Shallow?

 

There are several reasons for this. The major reasons are:

  • We are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this

pattern.

  • The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply.
  • We get too emotional too easily. We get excited easily, angry easily, and most of the rest of the time we suffer from anxiety due to worry. These negative emotional states affect the rate of breathing, causing it to be fast and shallow.
  • Modern technology and automation reduces our need for physical activity. There is less need to breathe deeply, so we develop the shallow breathing habit.
  • We are working indoor more and more. This increases our exposure to pollution. As a result, the body instinctively inhales less air to protect itself from pollution. The body just takes in enough air to tick over.

As we go through life, these bad breathing habits we picked up become part of our life. Unless we do something to reverse these habits, we can suffer permanent problems. The good news is that these are reversible. The bad news is that before we can change these habits, we should recognize and accept that our behavior needs to be changed. This means that we see for ourselves the benefits of good breathing techniques.

Certainly, yoga is not the only way to cope up with the stress and the resultant drop in oxygen supply to the brain brought on by the constricted breathing. A smoke, a coffee break, a trip to the restroom or a good laugh may all result in some readjustment of constricted breathing patterns. These can be thought of as “mini-yoga’s”. We can benefit by taking or seeking more smokes, breaks, trips or jokes. But for those whose occupations continue to be highly stressful, something more will be needed. Deep breathing exercises and stretching of muscles, especially those primarily concerned with controlling inhaling and exhaling should be sought. Participation in active sports also will be useful. Going for a walk is very good. For those experiencing restricted breathing at night, morning exercises should be actively pursued.

Importance of Breathing Through The Nose

The first rule for correct breathing is that we should breathe through the nose. This may seem obvious, but many people breathe principally through the mouth. Mouth breathing can adversely affect the development of the thyroid gland. It can retard the mental development of children.

Summary: Benefits of Deep Breathing

We will now summarize the benefits of deep breathing. Deep breathing produces the following benefits:

  1. Improvement in the quality of the blood due to its increased oxygenation in the lungs. This aids in the elimination of toxins from the system.
  2. Increase in the digestion and assimilation of food. The digestive organs such as the stomach receive more oxygen, and hence operate more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is oxygenated more.
  3. Improvement in the health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centers and nerves. This is due again to the increased oxygenation and hence nourishment of the nervous system. This improves the health of the whole body, since the nervous system communicates to all parts of the body.
  4. Rejuvenation of the glands, especially the pituitary and pineal glands. The brain has a special affinity for oxygen, requiring three times more oxygen than does the rest of the body. This has far-reaching effects on our well-being.
  5. Rejuvenation of the skin. The skin becomes smoother and a reduction of facial wrinkles occurs.
  6. The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massage the abdominal organs – the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. This stimulates the blood circulation in these organs.
  7. The lungs become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems.
  8. Deep, slow, yoga breathing reduces the workload for the heart. The result is a more efficient, stronger heart that operates better and lasts longer. It also mean reduced blood pressure and less heart disease.
  9. The yoga breathing exercises reduce the work load on the heart in two ways. Firstly, deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen is brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by the heart. So, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Secondly, deep breathing leads to a greater pressure differential in the lungs, which leads to an increase in the circulation, thus resting the heart a little.
  10. Deep, slow breathing assists in weight control. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen burns up the excess fat more efficiently. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands. In other words, yoga tends to produce the ideal weight for you.
  11. Relaxation of the mind and body. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing causes a reflex stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in a reduction in the heart rate and relaxation of the muscles. These two factors cause a reflex relaxation of the mind, since the mind and body are very interdependent. In addition, oxygenation of the brain tends to normalize brain function, reducing excessive anxiety levels.

The breathing exercises cause an increase in the elasticity of the lungs and rib cage. This creates an increased breathing capacity all day, not just during the actual exercise period. This means all the above benefits also occur all day.

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