Breathing: The Essential Art

There is both a practice and an art of breathing fully and intentionally to enhance life in many ways. The benefits are plentiful, and I will discuss further. As humans, we can survive almost two months without any nourishment from food and up to two weeks without water. However, without a single breath, we would only survive a few minutes. This vital function goes way beyond the simple act of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Breathing is a primal energy which goes beyond simply sustaining us but yet enhancing our core essence. For as soon as stress enters our body, our breathing pattern starts to show changes. Furthermore, breathing affects our body’s bioelectric balance.

Breath is as food to our bodies. Nutrition acts biochemically whereas breath acts bioelectrically. It is both cleansing and energizing in function. This is because when it is performed both mindfully and and with intention it helps us harness energy both mentally and physically for reserves for when we call upon it. Specifically on inhalation, vital energy is then stored and collected or harnessed. Exhalation is a cleansing method for detoxifying the body’s lymphatic fluid. Lymphatics can be improved by deep breathing alone and there are only a few modalities like acupuncture and lymph massage that can truly move lymph.

When our lungs expand upon inhalation, the diaphragm is pushed downward. The diaphragm is a flexible, muscular membrane separating the chest from the abdominal cavity. In contrast, when exhalation takes place, the lungs contract and the diaphragm then moves upward towards the chest cavity. Upon this activity, the diaphragm is able to stimulate the whole abdominal and portal circulation. This functions acts as an internal massage or compression to our lungs, spleen, and intestines due to the energy of this force pump. Vessels and lymphatics of the abdomen get gently compressed which creates heightened venous circulation. The movement of the diaphragm muscle expands from the abdomen to the thorax improving circulation without even the heart being involved.

The primal time for the optimal lung biorhythm to take place exists between the times of 3am and 5am. This is also why the Taoists and monks often awake to fully meditate at this time with extensive disciplined breathing techniques engaged. Harmony of mind and breath is the goal for breathing correctly to fully reap the plethora of benefits available with this simple act.

The ancient Taoists referred to the mind as a ‘playful monkey’ which can be tamed with ongoing practice. The mind needs to be in complete control of both breath and body. The Taoists were firm believers of the inhalation-the retaining of the breath-exhalation-and then the pause. This is to be repeated with slower, fuller breaths up to the clavicles. This diaphragmatic breathing greatly improves respiratory efficiency, reduces cardiovascular strain, and even more so harness vital energy, we call qi.

     It is preferable to practice the art of breathing outdoors in a favorite spot, barefoot, near vegetation. Negative ions are vital for our longevity and enhance breathing techniques. These ions are located in more natural environments such as waterfalls, mountains, beaches, and forests. Negative ions are released by elements of nature such as moving water, lighting, sunlight, and etc..  These ions are truly the essential element in air to vastly improve our vitality. This also explains why we feel exhilarated and revitalized after spending substantial time outdoors.

Inhalation and exhalation are a perfect example of both yin and yang. Each complements the other and there is a steady flow needed to keep the mind and body in true balance. There are many styles of breathing exercises including alternate nasal breathing, vibratory breathing such as vocalizing the word ‘om’, reverse abdominal breathing and much more depending on culture and custom.

Back in my pulmonary days, I would often teach my respiratory patients breathing techniques to help ensure the best O2 exchange and decrease the respiratory rate to a more desirable one. These techniques consisted of diaphragmatic exercises and pursed lip breathing. These improved the quality of each breath which allowed the patient to live life easier and be more productive throughout the day.

Research has shown that only fifteen minutes of deep breathing daily improves digestive enzymes which helps facilitate peristalsis in the digestive tract. But the benefits are plentiful and even stimulate hormone secretion via the endocrine system. The pneumogastric nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system is also stimulated in the abdominal region and reproductive glands aiding in fertility and sexual function.

Many other noted benefits of utilizing the true art of breathing include lowering both heart rate and blood pressure, detoxifying the body while stimulating the lymph system, sharpening our memory, improving posture, overall benefits the heart and circulatory system, and tonifies and stretches the diaphragm which acts as an internal massage to the body’s organs.

  Tai chi encompasses the true art of breathing with intentional breath guided movements and has been shown to be used not only as a rehabilitative form of exercise but includes many health benefits. Call today to begin your journey to true health: 772-353-1397