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To Your Health

Breathing For Life

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12/01/2011 - Hello Again! I hope you enjoyed the last article and found it useful to recognize the importance of understanding what prolonged stress can do to the body. This month I am going to discuss with you a topic that is somehow overlooked in its importance. I received this information from a good friend who granted permission to use his information for this month's article, "Breathing for life". Breathing is an important function of the body since we can only last three minutes without taking in air.

Now we need to understand what breathing does. It provides oxygen for a lot of our bodily functions. Let's get past the thinking that it "fills my lungs up". Oxygen is necessary for thinking clearly (brain function), metabolizing fats (really!), muscle function (like your heart). So, as you can see, we need to take breathing a little more seriously.

As we should know, our main muscle used in breathing is our diaphragm and, like any of our other muscles, it needs exercise. Unfortunately, due to our sedentary lifestyles, it becomes soft and flabby like the rest of us which decreases its effectiveness. So we compromise and start using the muscles between our ribs to do more of the work, resulting in poorer posture, resulting in abnormal biomechanical loading of our spine, tightening muscles in our upper shoulders. This will eventually result in lack of stamina and decreased efficiency of our lungs.

Did you know that breathing properly will help with weight control. With an increase in breathing comes an increase of oxygen, and oxygen is one of three necessary elements of fire or combustion (fuel, heat and oxygen). Lack of oxygen retards combustion, but an abundance of it will cause your fuel to burn more completely, with no residue of fat and poisons. Improper combustion at the cellular level leaves a residue of fat.

I'm sure you're interested in improving this not only for the physical benefits but also mental. What most people believe is that you have to go and start the old cardio program to achieve this. However it's winter and some of you don't have the time or cannot get out. Well, I have some info for you. An Englishman named William P. Knowles wrote a book New Life Through Breathing. He developed six exercises (we will start with a couple this month) that many individuals in the early and mid 1900s gave testimony to their powerful benefit. These exercises are not hard to understand or perform. The progression of them will build your endurance: although you should be cautious not to overexert yourself, especially if you have ever had heart issues. If you are still not sure, talk to your doctor!

Now what's great about these is that you can do them sitting down. (I can hear a cheer from some of you.) More importantly, they must be done with proper posture so as to benefit the lungs, so sit up straight and try to pull your shoulder blades together without pushing your head forward!

These are the exercises verbatim as I received them:

(1) Cleansing Breath -- Sit erect and inhale gently but deeply, allowing the ribcage to expand outward, and then lifting the ribs for more expansion. Hold the breath for a few seconds to allow for gas exchange and then begin exhaling in short puffs. Continue to blow out gently by puffing until all the air is gone, then blow out a little more, and then a little bit more and then a little bit more. Then hold your breath for a few seconds and finally inhale slowly and fill up again.

This will blow the carbon dioxide out of your blood and oxygenate your whole body, especially your brain. Do this immediately upon arising from sleep. Lying horizontal keeps the diaphragm from flexing fully, so when you wake up in the morning you typically have an abundance of carbon dioxide built up within your blood. Blowing out continually expels it along with the other bad stuff (like morning breath) and brings in fresh oxygen. Out goes the bad and in comes the good. Lack of oxygen and an abundance of carbon dioxide is what cause morning grogginess. Similarly, lack of oxygen to the brain is manifested in fatigue throughout the day, When you first wake up in the morning, do this exercise three times and you will feel the grogginess leave. This exercise is also good for daytime fatigue, and it releases stress as you exhale. It is great for the workplace and for mothers with children.

2. The Slow, Deep Breath -- Remember to sit up straight and pull your shoulders back. Start with the cleansing breathe (exercise 1). Then begin breathing in, preferably through the nose. Breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for a second and the exhale for four seconds. Pause for a second then slowly, but completely, inhale for five seconds. Hold it again for one second and then exhale for five seconds. Repeat this all the way to the count of seven seconds. Then walk it back down by doing six,five,and four counts.

This should be done rhythmically, trying not to get as much air in four seconds as you will in seven seconds. This way, you will gradually expand your lung capacity.

Well I definitely went over my allotted space. Sorry, Mr. Editor. We will try to get to the rest next month, so start these exercises and do them sitting! Some of you may get light headed so don't try them standing. Until next month, see ya!

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