Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Breathing Your Way to Superb Health

You can learn a lot about a person just by observing how they breathe...

  • When they're relaxed, whether standing or sitting, can you hear their breathing?
  • Do their shoulders and chest rise when they inhale?
  • Does their lower abdomen move at all?
  • Are they inhaling or exhaling through their mouth or their nose?

All these are key questions that can tell you volumes about their physical health and, for that matter, their emotional health and how they relate to their body.

Compelling Reasons for Breathing Right:

Simply put, your body-mind organism has been designed to breathe in a particular way, and if you knock that natural breathing out of whack, you'll eventually reap the consequences.  The breathing that's natural to the human person is what's sometimes called "Normal Abdominal Breathing".  Why should you bother with it?  As Bill Nye the Science Guy loves to say, "consider the following";

  • It enhances the circulation of blood, lymph fluid and energy (chest breathing restricts all of them)
  • It takes the burden off the heart (chest breathing makes your heart work harder)
  • It massages your lower digestive tract, leading to more efficient elimination of toxins (chest breathing leaves your lower digestive tract stagnant and sluggish, leading to auto-intoxication)
  • It calms the emotions and reduces the energy-sapping "inner dialogue" (chest breathing tends to increase negative emotional content)

Practicing Basic Normal Abdominal Breathing:

Getting started is super-simple.  You can start with the following exercise while sitting or standing, and later graduate to doing it while walking:

  1. Keeping your chest and shoulders relatively stationary, expand your lower abdomen outward as you inhale through your nose
  2. Contract your lower abdomen as you exhale through your nose
  3. With each breath, use your mental attention to feel the breath sink down to your lower abdomen
  4. Breath at whatever pace is comfortable for you - this should feel completely gentle, natural and unforced, even if it seems a bit awkward at first ;-)

Once you've got the hang of that, you can experiment with these auxilliary practices (NOTE: If you have high blood pressure, please consult your physician first):

  1. As you inhale, instead of just expanding your abdomen to the front, allow your waist to expand all the way around, as if it were a big inner tube
  2. As you inhale, relax your perineum completely and feel the breath move all the way down to it and push against it.  Then, when you exhale, pull up on the perineum, more or less as you would doing a Kegel exercise (the Kegel or PC muscle exercises have lots of other health benefits I don't have time to get into here). 

Breathing and Your Personal Resilience:

Proper breathing can dramatically increase your physical health on all levels, balance your emotions, reduce your stress and, over time, utterly transform your relationship with your body.  It's pretty hard to overstate the benefits of paying attention to your breathing.

Of course, its real value comes when you transition from doing Normal Abdominal Breathing as an exercise for a few minutes a day to making it the "default setting" for how you breathe all day long. 

To get the whole story on how to do that, go to this website:


Now, go enjoy a few good lung-fulls of fresh air!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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