Using your breath to improve health and wellbeing

We all know food is fuel for your body, however have you ever thought of oxygen as a fuel?  Oxygen is essential to the production of energy in your body.  When you pump clean oxygen into the body, every cell becomes more alive.  Providing adequate fuel to our four main motors, the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys will support the body to function better.

Proper breathing has many benefits including:

  • Smooth function of muscles, tendons and joints
  • Improved lung capacity
  • Improved brain function
  • Stress reduction and nervous system balance
  • Improved digestion
  • Better immunity
  • Firmer, clearer skin
  • Lower blood pressure (especially with nose breathing).

Due to lack of effective breathing, sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise, most people use less than a third of their lung capacity, leaving old, stale, toxic air in the lungs to recirculate throughout the tissues.

Such oxygen starvation and toxicity can contribute to:

  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Stiff joints
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Back pain
  • Foot pain
  • Poor immunity and increased respiratory infections
  • Poor eyesight and hearing
  • Memory loss
  • Respiratory issues such as asthma, sinus infections, bronchitis
  • Painful teeth and receding gums

Oxygen is a mode of detox, it’s required to clear the bloodstream of carbon dioxide, helps the body properly use the food you eat and is essential to the production of energy in your body.

How can you improve your breathing and train your body to use your full lung capacity and therefore positively affect your health?  You can try the tips and exercises below and seek treatment from your Osteopath, who can work on your muscles, skeleton, nerve and blood supply to improve your breathing capacity.

  1. Breathe fully, using the diaphragm.  When you breathe in, allow your tummy to expand forward and when you breathe out, let it sink back in.  For more deeper cleansing breaths, as you breathe in, push the diaphragm muscle down, and breathing out, pull the tummy in and diaphragm muscle up into the ribcage.
  2. For relaxation:
    – Before getting up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night, lay on your back, arms relaxed at your side and take 10 of the deepest, longest, slowest breaths, alternating through the mouth and nose.
    – Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. When you exhale through your mouth you make a woosh sounds to the count of 8.
    – Take a deep breath in, breathe out making the hissing sound ‘S’ for the entire out breath, which will naturally extend your out breath.  Take two normal breaths for each ‘S’ breath.
  3. For deep cleansing:
    – Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
    – Raise arms overhead, reaching for the sky.
    – Exhale through your mouth as you bend forward to reach for your toes (keeping knees slightly bent).  Compress your chest and push upward with your diaphragm to completely expel stale air.
    – Inhale through your nose and mouth as you straighten to standing, reach your arms to the sky.  Push down with diaphragm and expand your chest.
    – Hold your breath in this position for 5 seconds.
    – Repeat 5-10 times.
  4. In winter especially, avoid colds, lung problems and sinus congestion by getting a good dose of fresh air.
    – Put the car window down when driving to replace old stale air with fresh air.
    – Turn on your ceiling fans day and night to improve the properties of the air.
    – Open the window or door day and night.
  5. Use the following breathing technique to increase flexibility, lubricate joints and boost energy.  Studies have shown that as a warm up it has a greater effect on performance and flexibility than stretching.
    – Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
    – Put your arms out in front with your elbows slightly bent as if you are loosely hugging someone.
    – Breathe in to expand your tummy, then your lower ribs expand out then your upper ribs expand up.  As you do this expand the ribs, lift your arms up above your head.
    – Breathe out and allow ribs to descend, bringing your arms back down, almost to your abdomen.
    – Begin by breathing small, slow breaths synchronised with the arm movements.
    – Increase the rate of breathing with arm movements over 30 breaths until you are breathing as fast as you can, then reduce the rate back to slow over the next 30 breaths.
    – Perform this 60 breath cycle 5 times.
  6. If you are stretching, breathe in for 4 seconds, and out for 6 seconds, increasing the stretch on the out breath.
  7. Practice alternate breathing when you have a moment, at traffic lights, waiting on the phone on hold, while reading etc. This is a great way to relax, balance the nervous system, calm the mind and balance right and left brain.
    – Hold the right nostril closed with your index finger and slowly take a breath in through the left, release the right, and close the left nostril with your thumb and breathe out through right.
    – Breathe in right (left blocked), out left (right blocked).
    – Breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in.  Continue this cycle for at least 10 breaths each side. The longer and more often you do it, the better for you. View this video: Alternative nostril breathing -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbbr6Udg1UA
  8. Perform your workout in the ‘aerobic zone’, where you can maintain breathing through your nose, or hold a conversation.

Using the above exercises is a great way to improve your lung capacity, respiration and therefore your health, naturally.  For even greater improvement in your respiratory system, see your Osteopath.  We can maximise your respiratory efficiency and therefore support your body in its self maintaining and healing capacity.  Please contact us on 07) 3208 8308 or book instantly online.

Check out other articles in this series packed with simple and practical ways to improve the 6 foundations of your health, including – clean water, fresh air, sunshine, movement, sleep and fresh food.

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Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health, a multidisciplinary clinic in Brisbane also providing Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling – where we aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently.  We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease.  For any further information, please contact us on info@head2toehealth.com.au or 07) 3208 8308.

For more information, check out “Super Power Breathing” by Paul Bragg N.D., Ph.D. and Patricia Bragg N.D., Ph.D.