Of course, breathing is an automatic function and therefore is something that most of us probably take for granted. After all, we do it automatically and without thinking. It’s only in we suddenly have trouble breathing that we realize just how important this particular bodily function is. In fact, it’s so important that we humans can survive only a very short period of time without it. Even though healthy people can go more than a month without food and several days without water, the brain will begin to die and bodily functions will begin to shut down after just a few minutes of oxygen deprivation.
In addition, there’s a more insidious problem with breathing difficulties, which is that as we grow older, we likely become less physically active. This in turn leads to muscle stiffness and also diminishes our capacity to utilize and take in oxygen. In turn, this affects our overall level of vitality and energy. There’s also some evidence that suggests that the planet’s oxygen levels themselves have decreased versus years ago, because of the increased population and the pollution that is occurring at an alarmingly high rate.
There are many modalities that can teach breathing techniques to help relieve this “breath diminishment,” including meditation, martial arts techniques, and the like. Other therapies, such as rebirthing, use breath as the general healing conduit to help restore vitality.
If we look closely at our breathing, we notice that it changes depending on emotional and physical states. For instance, if we experience a particular fright, then breathing will momentarily pause and then may resume at a more shallow level. If the fright is chronic, such as with anxiety disorders, breathing can be shallow on an almost permanent basis. In general, if you can look at how someone is breathing, you can at least partly determine what his or her emotional state is.
Some proponents state that emotional disturbance is locked into the body’s muscular and cellular structure. Therefore, this “body memory” holds the emotional state of a particular time associated with the fright and the breathing state becomes reflected in the body itself. If people suffering from catastrophic events’ aftermaths can use breathing to heal past events and give themselves more energy in the present moment, they’ll increase their breath and improve the way they feel.
With this type of exercise, breathing in and out is connected circularly. In other words, you do so continuously in a “circular” pattern, which can be taught to you by someone practiced in this technique. This both helps your emotional state and also induces a feeling of calm and peace, which in turn returns the body and mind to a state of homeostasis or balance. Of course, this is best accomplished with a practiced facilitator who can guide you through the process.
This can help clear emotional blockages even several years old and help you regain a state of peace and equilibrium, which in turn will affect overall good health. Outcome depends on your willingness to achieve greater energy and vitality, as well as the intractability of the anxiety or other cause of shallow breathing itself. There may also be modalities that are more beneficial to you within a certain situation than others.
For example, modalities such as qi gong and tai chi aim to help create a greater flow of “chi” or life essence in and out of your body. These work on the energies of the body at a more subtle level. It also helps strengthen musculature; yoga is somewhat similar in nature.
Other more direct exercises such as jogging or biking, for example, will also help you increase your lung capacity. This, in turn, will improve health and vitality and will also help decrease anxiety, since these activities encourage deep breathing. Of course, you should check with your doctor to see just what activities you can undertake, but everyone can benefit from some type of physical activity to some extent. Even gentle movements seated in a chair can help you increase your breathing capacity, as can meditative exercises, for example. This type of relaxation helps increase lung capacity as well and also helps release tight chest muscles and other muscles in the body. Gentle focus is the key here to help facilitate this, since you don’t want to “try” too hard and thus increase anxiety, but still want to focus on increasing your ability to deep breathe, which you may not previously have had.
When oxygen flow is restored throughout the body, regeneration and healing at the cellular and energy levels can take place. In some cases, there may blockages in chi, which may result in some discomfort or even pain. However, in many cases, it simply results in your feeling more energized and peaceful. Simply having a greater level of oxygen within your body helps with regeneration, and it also aids in digestion and nutrient assimilation. It may also in fact help you optimally utilize food and/or lose or even gain weight if needed, since this type of optimization is meant to restore balance. Therefore, if you are underweight, this will help restore your vitality and help you gain much-needed healthy weight. If you’re overweight, it will increase energy flow and help you consume healthier food as well as increase your activity, so that you can lose weight.