Friday, 24 August 2012


Something that you have been doing since you were born.  And that is to breathe.  
Do you know that how you breathe can affect your health?

English: Animation of a diaphragm exhaling and...
 Animation of a diaphragm exhaling and inhaling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We don't give much thought to breathing as it seems relatively mundane on the surface.  However, breathing is very much an essential action to keep living.

How does breathing affect your health?

Besides your brain, muscle and heart functions, breathing is function that we do automatically.  However, factors such as stress, tension and anxieties can affect your breathing.  Therefore, it makes sense to adopt a breathing exercise and techniques to counter these factors that can generate free radicals in our bodies.

Breathing consciously

Imagine that you have 20 emails to reply,  your phone is ringing off the hook, and you are running late for an important appointment.  At this point, you may be feeling as though you are drowning or suffocating.  

You have to realize that this feeling arose simply from you growing anxious and have started to shallow breathe.  Shallow breathing is when you take short breathes that may not carry sufficient oxygen to your brain and may also cause shoulder and neck muscles to tense up and sometime may also cause headaches.

Conscious breathing helps to counter your anxiety from escalating.  Stop and take a deep breath.  Slowly inhale and exhale a couple of times until you feel your muscles relaxing.

Breathing Exercises

breathe (Photo credit: davedehetre)

When you are under stress, your heartbeat and blood pressure will naturally increase and your adrenal gland will flood the bloodstream with a stress hormone called Cortisol.  It is your body's natural coping mechanism when the brain senses that you  are in danger externally or internally.

By adopting deep breathing exercises which is similar to conscious breathing, it tells your brain when to calm down.  Not only deep breathing will help to slow your heart rate, it will also reduces your breath rate and lowers blood pressure.

Dr Andrew Weil, suggests that breathing exercises are useful stress relievers because breath is easily controlled and regulated.  One exercise he suggested to maintain stress is the 4-7-8 or Relaxing Breath Exercise.  The practice is simple and can be done anywhere.

"Although you can do the exercise  in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise.  Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.  You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

1) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a 'whoosh' sound.  Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

2) Hold your breath for a count of seven.  Exhale completely through your mouth, making a 'whoosh' sound to a count of eight.  This is one breath.  

3) Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

4) Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth.  The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time.  Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation.  

5) The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important: the ratio of 4:7:8 is important.  If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ration of 4:7:8 for the three phases.  With practice, you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

6) This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.  Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time.  This exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice.  

7) Do it at least twice a day.  You cannot do it too frequently.  Do not do more that four breaths at a time for the first month of practice.  

Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths.  If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do  not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you.  Use it whenever anything upsetting happens-before you react.  Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension.  Use it to help you fall asleep.  This exercise cannot be recommended too highly.  Everyone can benefit from it."

My next topic for discussion is, "What Happens When Your Body Is Under Stress."

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Thanks for looking and taking the time to read my blog.  I welcome feedback and please feel free to share your thoughts and experience in relation to this topic.

Until my next post, "Here's To Your Health!"

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