How aware are you of your breathing? Most of us don't really consider our breathing, until we exert ourselves physically or develop a respiratory ailment. Breathing doesn't just keep us alive - if done properly, it will improve our health as well.
Rhythm is fundamental to life. We easily recognize some examples of rhythm such as day/night, our heartbeat/pulse and seasonal changes. We understand that variations in these rhythms are meaningful and we make the necessary changes to our lives is accordance with the meanings of these normal variations.
A less well appreciated rhythm is the rhythm of breathing. In…Out…In…Out. How hard can it be? Breathe faster when exercising, slower when resting. Easy. But it’s actually more complex than you think as there are both spiritual and health related complexities.
If you stop breathing for long enough, you die. As long as you can still breathe, you are alive. Historically, many cultures have noted this link with life and breathing. In Latin, the word “Spiritus” is the root word for both “Spirit” and “respiration”. In Greek (pneuma) and Hebrew (rûah) the word refers to both human breathing and the divine presence. It’s no wonder that breathing techniques form and important part of spiritual disciplines.
What about health effects?
Breathing in brings oxygen to the lungs, hence the blood stream, and the body. It brings life to all the tissues in your body, from your brain to your skin. The deeper you inhale, the better. All the tissues benefit. More oxygen to your brain, and you feel less anxious, more to the muscles, you move with better efficiency.
Breathing out expels carbon dioxide, which is the waste product of breathing. There are other by-products too. Your body uses breathing out as the fastest way to balance your body’s pH, which is extremely important in maintaining a steady state in your body. The longer you exhale, the better. The rhythm of slow in and slow out is fundamental to good health.
The speed matters. Children breathe faster than adults, but for a normal adult, sitting at rest, a normal healthy rate is 6-10 times a minute. Yes, that is a lot slower than you were thinking. Try counting how fast you are breathing right now? More than 10? You need to slow down. It might be as simple for you to slow down as just realise that you are overbreathing. Go for it. If you struggle, consult your physio who will teach you some easy and effective breathing techniques that will help you optimise your health.
Robinson Private Hospital
Medical Centre Block 4
Tel: 011 693 5041
Lenmed Private Hospital
Ward Street, Greenhills
Tel: 011 693 5041
1679 President Kruger Street
Tel: 011 753 2113
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