Deep breathing is the single most powerful daily practice for advancing your health and well-being.
It might seem unusual, especially to people in America and the western world to regard the simple act of breathing as being an activity that enhances health. That’s because most of us think breathing is nothing more than an automatic, involuntary mechanism that our body does in order to stay alive.
Special deep breathing techniques, such as those practiced in ancient cultures and certain Eastern disciplines (such as yoga), have remained largely a mystery to Western civilization. What Westerners often don’t realize is that when we turn our attention to our breath — and increase the volume of our breath — beneficial physiological mechanisms are triggered that have a significant effect on health.
For example, when volume, rate and attention level are altered in the practice of breathing, dramatic physiological, and even emotional, changes can and do occur.
According to Roger Jahnke, O.M.D., author of The Healer Within, “The breath is a link to the most profound medicine that we carry within us. Within this nearly unconscious gesture, a breath, that we enact 1,261,440,000 (1 and 1/4 billion) times in our life span there is a simple yet profound healing capability.”
Various advocates of breathwork offer different breathing techniques and practices, such as full chest and abdominal breathing or alternate nostril breathing. The one I have been using since 1997 is one called Vital Breathing.
This deep breathing technique involves inhaling, holding the breath, and exhaling in the following sequence:
• Inhale for 1 count
• Hold the breath for 4 counts
• Exhale for 2 counts
What’s important is the ratio (1:4:2), not the actual number of counts that you inhale, hold the breath or exhale. For example: If you inhale for 4 seconds, then you would hold your breath for 16 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds.
If you do 10 repetitions of this breathing exercise 3 times a day (morning, evening and just before bedtime), 5 to 10 minutes a day, you will experience a noticeable shift in your energy level, your mental clarity and your body’s ability to prevent and heal diseases.
One of the main reasons why this breathing exercise delivers many health benefits is because the combined action of the lungs, diaphragm and thorax serve as a ‘pump’ for the lymph fluid.
The lymphatic system is often referred to as the sewage system of the body. It cleans up the waste created by virtually all the other systems of the body. The human body has twice as much lymph fluid than it has blood. But unlike the circulatory system, which has the heart to keep the blood flowing, the lymphatic system does not have a ‘pump’ to push the lymph fluids around the body.
It relies on our breathing and movement in order to perform its function of surrounding every cell in the body; protecting each one by removing dead cells, blood proteins and any other toxins; and excreting them from the body. If the movement of the lymph were to stop entirely for 24 hours, one would die as a result of the trapped toxins and proteins surrounding our cells.
The practice of Vital Deep Breathing creates the muscular movement required by the lymphatic system to circulate the lymph fluid efficiently. A lymphatic system that is functioning properly supports every other system in the body, including the immune, digestive, detoxification and nervous systems.
A sluggish lymphatic system and stagnant lymph fluid, on the other hand, makes the body susceptible to infections, diseases and health conditions ranging from cancer, AIDS, tumor growth, cysts, impaired immune system … all the way down to cellulite.
“Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health. If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly. There is no single more powerful — or more simple — daily practice to further your health and well being than breath work.” — Andrew Weil, M.D.