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The Breath

Of Life

Debbie Schroeder RN, BSN
Professional Health Coach

Do you take the ability to breathe for granted?  Do you ever think about breathing?  Breathing is something that most people do not think much about unless they are having trouble breathing.  Most people breathe very shallowly.  Start to pay attention to your breathing and you will notice only your upper chest moves slightly with each breath.

Breathing serves two important functions in our body.  One reason we breathe is to bring oxygen into our body to oxygenate our cells which is essential for life.  The second function of breathing is to eliminate toxins and waste products from our body through exhalation.

Shallow breathing results in oxygen starvation to your body's cells.  As a result of this lack of adequate oxygen you will experience signs of pre-mature aging, reduced vitality and your immune system will not function efficiently.

Learning to take deep breaths has many health benefits.  Some of the benefits to deep breathing are; stress reduction, stimulates the lymphatic system (the lymph system is responsible for removing toxins from your body), increased oxygen to the brain makes you feel more energetic and clears your mind, and the lungs become stronger and healthier.

It is easy to learn how to take deep breathes.  It just requires a commitment of a few minutes a day to focus on your breathing and create a new habit of deep breathing.  You have probably been breathing shallowly for most of your life, so when you first start implementing the deep breathing techniques into your life you may feel a little light headed or uncomfortable.  You are not used to the rush of fresh oxygen into your system. 

Once you practice deep breathing for a few days, you will adjust to the increased oxygen flow and start to notice all the benefits to performing deep breathing on a regular basis.  Take these few minutes for yourself each day and notice how much better you feel.

Some simple breathing techniques:

Basic Deep Breathing:

Sit up straight, with your feet flat on the floor.  Relax your shoulders and place your hands on either side of your abdomen.  Inhale slowly through your nose, drawing your breath first into your abdomen to fill and expand it and then up through your middle and finally to expand your chest.  When exhaling, contract your abdomen first and then your middle and chest.  Repeat 3-4 times.  Do this exercise several times throughout the day.

Tony Robbins Unlimited Power Breathing:

This is one of my favorite breathing exercises.  I first heard about this technique from Tony Robbins.  With this breathing technique you will follow a pattern where you breathe in for one count, hold for 4 counts and exhale for 2 counts. 
An example of how to follow this pattern is:

Sit up straight, with your feet flat on the floor.  Relax your shoulders and place your hands on either side of your abdomen.  You will inhale slowly through your nose to the count of 5, drawing your breath first into your abdomen to fill and expand it and then up through your middle and finally to expand your chest.  Then hold your breathe to the count of 20 and exhale to the count of 10.  Ideally you should work up to sets of 10 breathes, three times a day.  You can progressively work on increasing how long you inhale, hold and exhale to increase your lung capacity.

I encourage you to try these simple deep breathing techniques to improve your physical and mental health.  Deep breathing is a free, painless way to improve your health and receive immediate benefit from this simple process.

You may also experiment with taking slow deep breaths when you are under stress.  For instance, if you are stuck in traffic and feeling frustrated that you are late for an appointment, spend a few minutes taking slow deep breaths and notice how much better you feel.  


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