What is the most important thing you do?

Breathing

All life, even plant life, is dependent upon the act of breathing.

Breath Is Life.

Breathing must be considered the most important of all the bodily functions, for, indeed, all the other functions depend upon it.  We may exist for around 30 days without food.  I have read of some who fast for as long as 45 days.  We can survive a couple of days without water.  Without breathing our continued existence would be measured in minutes.

The book, “Science of Breath” by Yogi Ramacharaka was a gift.  It was first published in 1905, but the wisdom it contains is much older than that.  I have come to the conclusion that this would be one of the most significant gifts I have received.  I am going to pass a small portion of this gift on to you today.

Are You Breathing Correctly?

I would purpose that we do not breathe correctly or entirely.  To begin with, many people have a habit of breathing through their mouths.  Or as Yogi Ramachakra called it “disgusting mouth breathing.”  Now that may be a little harsh, but when you look at it from an anatomical perspective, he is correct.  Our nostrils act as our filtration system.  Numerous areas along our nasal passage filter out many contaminants before they reach our complex and delicate lungs.  Along with this the nasal membranes warm the air before it reaches our lungs.  When we breathe through our mouths, neither of these critical processes are accomplished.  No other mammals, except humans, sleep with the mouth open or breaths through the mouth.

Along with mouth breathing, many of us in our culture are not breathing complete breaths. Most of us are in a constant state of stress.  When we are stressed, we inhale and exhale shorter breaths. 

When we breathe shorter breaths, we are only engaging the upper portion of our lungs.   Now the lower part of our lungs consists chiefly of the bronchi, arteries, and veins connecting the lungs with the heart.  To fully oxygenize our blood we should be using the entire lung.

Our blood is what fuels every cell in our body.  Again, the most important function that we do is to breath.  An act we mostly ignore or are unaware of until we have troubles.

If you recognize the importance of breathing correctly and comprehensively, the next question is what can you do about it to improve that area in your daily life.  The first thing that you would want to do is to address your stress levels.  Find some method to deal with the degree of stress many of us in our culture experience daily. I am one of them.  That discussion is for another time.  What I can share with you right now is the  practice of the “Complete Breath.” 

What is the complete breath?  It is a simple method of utilizing our entire lungs while at the same time strengthen them.  The idea is that if we practice exercising “Complete Breaths” daily it will become a normal way for us to breath. 

To start, we want to be sitting or standing straight.  Not slumped over.  It’s quite simple:

Breathing through the nostrils, inhale steadily, first filling the lower portion of the lungs, which is accomplished by bringing into play the diaphragm. Extend your abdomen when first inhaling. As you continue to inhale push out the middle ribs to fill the middle portion of the lungs. Then begin to draw in the abdomen while continuing to inhale to fill the upper portion of the lungs. Expand your upper chest. Slightly pull back the shoulders. 
Do this in one continuous motion. Hold the breath for a few seconds. 
Release slowly, holding the chest in a firm position and drawing in the abdomen. When the air is entirely exhaled, relax the chest and abdomen. 

Repeat numerous times throughout the course of the day. With continued practice, this will become a habit. However, this may require patience and self-discipline to change this effectively after spending a majority of time breathing incorrectly. 

I would suggest you take this simple method and begin practicing it daily. The mental and physical benefits will be numerous.

Until Next Week,

Rich Decker - Mindful Accord