“The wisest one-word sentence? Breathe.”Terri Guillemets
It’s my latest obsession…breathing! Why? Because it is so important to our well-being. We normally do not think about the ramifications of proper breathing techniques, until our ability is compromised. We have all seen reports of pulmonary havoc caused by Covid-19 and I am more thankful than ever to have a strong set of lungs.
Here are some startling facts:
- Lung function is a major predictor for how long you will live
- After age 35, lung function starts to decline
- Mouth breathing is detrimental to good health
- Most people do not breathe correctly
I have good news. Almost all of us are able to improve our lung function, regardless of age and health status, just by making simple changes to the way we breathe.
I started practicing breathing exercises a couple of years ago to combat chronic anxiety. After experiencing positive results, I did a deep dive into the health implications of proper breathing. My findings were eye opening.
Shut Your Mouth
First and foremost, whenever possible ALWAYS breathe through your nose! Here is a list of advantages for nose breathing:
Your nasal passages will heat, filter and moisten the air you breathe, making it healthier for your lungs.
Increased nitric oxide production. This is an important molecule that has many health benefits, including increased circulation by relaxing the inner muscles of the blood vessels. It also lowers blood pressure and strengthens the immune system.
Try humming more. It will keep your mouth closed while you breathe. It will also stimulate your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve plays an important role in breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.
Improve Your Breathing
Mark Courtney, a respiratory therapist with American Lung Association, gives some tips on how to get the most out of your lungs.
In addition to nasal and belly breathing, my main takeaway from his recommendations is to practice proper breathing techniques even if you have chronic lung disease.
People with COPD, asthma, emphysema and even lung cancer benefit greatly by practicing breathing exercises, as prescribed by their physicians.
The Perfect Breath
One way to improve breathing is to practice the perfect breath. The perfect breath, simply put, is inhale for 5.5 seconds and exhale for 5.5 seconds. There is actually a lot of science that went into developing this easy technique, none of which I will bore you with.
There are free “perfect breath” applications all over the the internet. I use the one on my Fitbit device. It has a 5.5 second timer with visual and tactile cues for breathing.
From ancient times, humans have known the importance of intentional breathing. Long before yoga became an active exercise style with elaborate poses it started with “sit and breathe.”
I feel lucky, because I have been practicing a form of intentional breathing for many decades without even being aware of it. As a flute player, I practice long notes, holding an even tone for as long as I can to build up lung capacity and stamina.
Musicians who play wind instruments, singers, swimmers, and other athletes may have an advantage, but don’t be discouraged. Anyone can improve lung function with a little practice.
Do You Want to Learn More?
Here are a few recommended sites, books and podcasts to learn more about better breathing for a healthier life:
Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. I listened to the online audiobook for free from the North Country Library System. Check your local libraries.
“There’s no limit to what working with the breath can accomplish. My own first-hand experiences with this natural healing method have convinced me that breathing well may be the master key to good health. I recommend breath work to all my patients.”Andrew Weil
I hope I’ve motivated you to at least breathe through your nose! There is so much more out there to learn about proper breathing techniques and their health benefits. I encourage you to do your own research. Incorporating good breathing techniques is simple, free and beneficial for your mental and physical health.
Thank you for reading – Barb, the River Blogger (Btrb)
Feel free to reblog anything I post. I welcome all comments and discussion.