How to Breathe Yourself to Wellness
Breath is indispensable for life. When we breathe air, we harvest oxygen (O2), as well as a myriad of vapors and lightweight particles. The primary component of air which we need to sustain life is oxygen. Without it we will die within minutes. Exchanging oxygen for waste products (primarily carbon dioxide) is the job of our lungs. The nose and sinuses are our natural filters which clear particulate waste so we can get better quality air to our lungs. The exchange done in the lungs optimizes function for all major organs, so it is vital we get high quantities of good quality air.
Improve your air quality
We intuitively breathe in a shallow manner when our air quality is poor. Lowering oxygen intake limits intake of airborne toxins, protecting our lungs, hearts, brain, and other organs. To improve air quality, the following strategies are very useful
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PLANTS
Plants naturally filter the air by taking in the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted when we exhale, exchanging it for oxygen (O2). They also balance the humidity in the air by absorbing water vapor when the humidity is high and releasing it when the humidity is low. There are other gaseous elements in the air which they also naturally absorb and can use as nutrition, but which can be toxic to humans. Dust hinders plants’ ability to filter the air, so make sure to regularly dust or shower your plants’ leaves with clean water to prevent dust accumulation.
USE AN AIR FILTER
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters work quite well in small spaces. They are affordable, use replaceable filters and can be turned on and off as needed. They work extremely well for people who have asthma or other respiratory diseases or who struggle with hay fever and/or allergies to airborne particles. If used in large spaces for very long hours, they become expensive to operate, but this is rarely necessary.
USE ESSENTIAL OILS
When you are in spaces with a lot of traffic or polluted air (especially with emissions from machinery or chemicals from printing and/or other types of production), essential oil of lemon or other citrus rinds (grapefruit, orange, lime etc.) will clear the air quite quickly and effectively. A drop or two on a tissue or a piece of paper will protect you for several hours in a vehicle. The drawback of this tool is it dries out mucus membranes and dehydrates us. Lip balm and hydrating drinks will solve the problem. Using this remedy daily also can deplete your blood iron levels over time. In that case, make sure to eat more iron-rich foods.
Increase your air quantity
When you have a good source of high quality air, increasing your oxygen intake improves the function of every system in your body; It reduces anxiety, need for sleep, and susceptibility to infection and illness. It also helps you heal quickly and handle many other assaults on your system efficiently and effectively. The following strategies are extremely helpful in helping to increase your ability to take in and to use more oxygen
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BREATHING
Breathing through your nose is the most efficient way to get oxygen to your brain and vital organs. Breathing through your mouth reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain by about 80%! If you are congested and breathe mostly through your mouth, clear your sinuses with the remedies you find most useful. The benefits of improved oxygenation to your brain and other vital organs usually outweigh side effects of sinus remedies. Pay attention to your patterns of congestion and work to keep your sinuses consistently clear.
When breathing correctly, your breath should push down into the bottom of your lungs, causing your diaphragm to expand and put pressure on your abdomen. Simply put, proper breath should cause your belly to rise and fall as well as your chest. If your breath moves only your chest, breathe more deeply and deliberately. This supplies you with up to quadruple the oxygen supplied by breathing only with the upper lungs. Practice proper breathing any time you think about it; eventually it will become an unconscious habit. This is one of the primary goals of a yoga practice. If you need help improving your breathing quality, a Kundalini style yoga class could be extremely helpful.
see also: Supplemental Reading
INCREASE ANTIOXIDANTS WITHIN YOUR DIET
Toxins in our blood originate from byproducts of metabolism or unnecessary particles in air, water and food. These toxins use up our oxygen supply as we work to excrete them. Black tea, dark beer, dark chocolate, peeled potatoes, and combinations of herbs and beverages specifically formulated for their antioxidant effects are extremely safe ways to detox without burdening your organs of elimination (lungs, liver, kidneys, colon, skin). Antioxidant vitamin combinations sold on the market can overburden the internal organs when taken in high doses and should be used with caution.
GET AEROBIC EXERCISE
When you exercise to the point of breathing heavily, you take in more oxygen. Exercising your lungs. heart, and body increases your ability to harvest and use the available oxygen and eliminate waste products. When you get to the point where you are exercising and your breathing becomes easy and is evenly paced, you are ready to increase your intensity of exercise to challenge your lungs and heart to be even healthier and more efficient. Engaging in this kind of exercise for 20-40 minutes 3-4 times per week reduces your risk by 60-80% for all major lifestyle related diseases which are common in developed countries. This is even true for smokers that smoke over a pack a day and those with a genetic predisposition to these diseases. Studies done by the Lung, Cancer, Heart and Diabetes associations all recommend aerobic exercise to that effect.
REDUCE YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE
Alcohol makes us light-headed because it can replace oxygen molecules with alcohol molecules. A high tolerance for alcohol does not protect you from this, it merely means you have adjusted to functioning with less oxygen. Your body diverts oxygen to your brain at the expense of your other organs.
MAKE SURE YOUR IRON LEVELS ARE GOOD
The iron in our blood allows us to harvest oxygen from the air we breathe. Without the capacity to harvest oxygen, it doesn’t matter how highly available it is. Have an iron blood level test done and make sure it is at the recommended levels for the altitude at which you live. If you are in the average ranges or any lower, add more high iron rich foods to your diet. Yellow corn products are one of the best sources, as the iron does not bind with other foods and cause constipation. It does not matter if the corn is fresh or processed, the available iron levels will be the same. Apricots, black strap molasses, dark green vegetables, dark plums, red grapes, red wine, cantaloupe, red raspberries, and yellow peaches, are all good sources of iron. Juices of these fruits are just as effective as the whole fruit in this regard. Iron is depleted in our systems by black teas, alcohol, and high levels of barley products.
The Science of Breath
by Yogi Ramachakara
One of the primary goals of a yoga practice is to make proper breathing an unconscious habit. If you need help improving your breathing quality, “The Science of Breath” by Yogi Ramacharaka is an excellent primer for this. It includes breathing exercises easily practiced at home.
Breath - The New Science of a Lost Art
by James Nestor
This is a modern, comprehensive overview of the power of breath. Nestor has studied many cultures' traditions surrounding breath, tying in a scientific reasons for their effectiveness. If you want even more tools for better breathing, this book is available with online lessons on his website.