Abdominal breathing is optimal breathing.
One focus of study in eastern medicine and the promotion of natural health is what is called the observance of the “infant state”. The three areas of study related to the infant state are flexibility, proper mind and proper breathing. In this specific article, we will focus on act of breathing. When we are born, our first act is to exhale and cry. We are announcing our entrance into the world. When we die, the death rattle announces our departure. The example of the infant provides us with several examples of perfectly natural healthy conditioning both internally and externally. Infants are especially great examples of proper breathing. There are two main mechanisms that infants use to breathe properly. Infants naturally breathe through their nose and use their abdominal muscles to breathe.
Abdominal breathing is optimal breathing. Abdominal breathing is also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing. Abdominal breathing is reflected physically by the expansion of the abdomen rather than using the chest. Abdominal breathing reports benefits both physically and mentally. Breathing helps to balance our internal sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This balance helps the body operate at optimal levels. Abdominal breathing exercise reduces the release of adrenaline and cortisol hormones during times of stress. Proper breathing can help lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, induce the release of serotonin, increase levels of growth hormone, improve mental balance, improve sleep and eliminate and reduce free radicals in the body. All these benefits help improve overall metabolic functions down to the cellular level and improve lifespan.
Using the nose to breath is also a very important breathing function. The nose functions as both a thermostat and a filter. If you breathe is cold air, then the nose will warm the air as you inhale. If the air is hot, then the nose will cool it. The nose not only provides a high percentage the respiratory systems air-conditioning requirements, but it also helps recover a significant percentage of heat and moisture expelled during the respiratory process. The nose filters out many impurities in the air as we are breathing. The nose contains specific receptors that react to chemicals generated by bacteria and produces nitric oxide that kills bacteria. In fact, breathing by the mouth may cause serious internal damage from unregulated and unfiltered air. Nasal breathing is always optimal. There are factors in individuals that may impact the body’s natural ability to utilize and support nasal breathing. However, nasal breathing should be practiced and developed in order to support a long healthy life.
Let’s examine in brief detail the physiology of breathing. Breathing may be the single biggest element of our daily existence. Without breathing, there is no life. As oxygen usage increases, so does demand on the body. This demand in turn causes our breathing rate to increase due to low levels of blood oxygen. An increase in blood flow to nourish the exerted muscles is also a result of the increased breathing cycles. Therefore, there is a twofold demand on the respiration and circulation of blood during high oxygen demands. If the body fails to keep up with the demands of oxygen requirements, then the breathing cycle loses balance. When this balance is lost, then a person feels out of breath. It is not a normal respiratory function to reach a point of gasping for air. This contradicts most exercise and health maintenance programs followed today.
The more we train ourselves to control our breathing, the more benefit to our overall health.
We’ve looked at abdominal breathing, nasal breathing and now we will touch on the practice of controlling our breathing. Unregulated breathing results in an elevated aerobic metabolic state increases the production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are products of our own metabolism. Specifically a free radical is a molecule that is missing a minimum one electron and looks to steal electrons from existing molecules to restore balance. This process creates a chain reaction damaging thousands of cells. Free radicals attack healthy cells of the body damaging the delicate balance of its contents. Oxidative stress as related to extreme oxygen requirements causes the cells of the body to lose function and structure. If the body is continually attacked by free radicals, then the possibility of damage to structures such as tissues, joints, organs and blood are greatly increased. Free radicals have contributed to diseases such as arthritis, cataracts, lung dysfunctions, pancreatic disorders, drug reactions, skin lesions and most importantly premature aging. Many people are under the misconception that extreme exercises are essential to a healthy life. This is simply not true. The more we train ourselves to control our breathing, the more benefit to our overall health.
Breathing is much like any skill. It takes practice. In a perfect world, we are born in a naturally healthy state. The infant state. Overtime, we may lose those natural skills through external influence and life habits. We can regain those skills through knowledge and discipline. Remember that breathing is not just a physical skill, it has many mental benefits as well. Breathing restores balance and balance is health. Be mindful, be diligent and the power of proper breathing will lead to a healthy life.