We eat 3-4 times a day, about 1.5kg of food, but we breathe 20,000 to 25,000 times a day – we intake about 20-25kg of air – We are not fully knowledgeable on breathing. Since it is an autonomous process, we do not – My research with Sleep naturally took me to research about “Breathing” and what I found out, woke me up (pun intended) and I decided to continue my blogs on Breathing.
3 external physical objects are consumed by us regularly. Life critically depends on them. Food, Water and Air. Food and Water can be paused through fasting for some time. But breathing cannot be paused beyond 10 minutes. Life will cease.
Only Free Divers can hold their breath for a maximum time of 10 minutes. We cannot and should not. Unlike eating food or drinking water, which are conscious activities, breathing is an autonomous process. It is controlled by the medulla oblongata, a part of the brain stem.
However, Both Indian and Chinese ancient wisdom has clearly found out that “Conscious Breathing” is the only process which can be used by human action to influence the brain functions and hence, the mind.
As evolving human beings, we have forgotten what is the natural and correct way of breathing.
Our modern lifestyle has robbed us of natural breathing. We have got to relearn
- Correct Breathing
- Conscious Breathing
Unfortunately, there is little or no focus on breathing from modern medical science.
Other than just asking you to breathe deep while checking heart/lung function using the stethoscope, I am not aware of any doctor visually observing or inquiring about how the patient is breathing!
My research into sleep took me naturally to breathing. So, I read James Nestor, the author of a recent bestseller on “Breath, the New Science of a Last Art”, Anders Olsson on “Conscious Breathing” and Wim Hof about the Wim Hof Method of breathing.
I acknowledge the above authors in taking up the cause of breathing and explaining lucidly about the science behind breathing, the anatomy concerning breathing and some breathing techniques which have given me massive improvement in my health and attitude to life over the past few months.
First let us learn about Correct Breathing and then I will talk about Conscious Breathing. So, what exactly is incorrect about breathing? All 3 aspects:
- Breathing through the Nose
- Using Abdomen and Diaphragm for breathing
- Breathing Rhythmically and Slowly
Breathing through the Nose:
I wonder why I even should talk about this. Is this such a big thing? Then I really started observing the world around me – Shocking when I observed that my wife was breathing through her mouth during sleep (how I worked on it and corrected is a separate story).
We believe that it is ok to breathe through the mouth – this is as correct as eating through your nose! Nose is created to be the sole instrument of breathing! Period. Google it or look around when people are sleeping. Surveys and research says that at least 50% of people are breathing through their mouth during sleep! Add to this the percentage of people who have choked noses, COPD and other breathing issues!
We are talking about a VERY LARGE proportion of the human population incorrectly breathing.
How do you breathe? Do you know? Ask your partner to observe while you breathe.
If you have a dry mouth when you wake up, if you have a V-shaped upper palate (as against a U-shaped palate), If your tonsils are removed when you were a child, if you are snoring then IT IS QUITE LIKELY THAT YOU ARE BREATHING THROUGH YOUR MOUTH.
See what you are missing out if you breathe through your mouth?
- Your nose captures impurities, particles, bacteria and viruses using the hair mucous surface in the nose when the inhaled air is going through.
- Your nose heats up the air and moistens it using the moist mucous surface. Why is this important? The incredible process of Gas exchange in the lungs happens optimally only when the air is hot and humid (more about Gas exchange and the process/chemistry of breathing later).
- It also adds the magical element of Nitric Oxide which is secreted in the sinuses. Nitric Oxide dilates the blood vessels as well as the air tubes of lungs, reducing blood pressure.
Tip: When you do Bhramari Pranayam (humming), you are releasing 15 times more Nitric Oxide into the breathed air and hence, practicing Bhramari Pranayama a few times a day during these days of the pandemic, can help you avoid getting infected.
So, why not simply hum and breathe through your nose?
PS: All of what is stated above is a summary of reading so many research articles and you can google about any of them.
I will be sharing more on breathing in the articles to come! Stay tuned. For more breathing exercises, check out Healthy Reads. To learn breathing techniques with the right guidance from a certified expert, subscribe to Personalised Health Coaching here.