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Breath: our first healer

Are your lungs dying? I bet your doctor never told you this, but as we age, cells in our lungs start to die off faster than we replace them – causing our lungs to shrink so by the age of 70 by doing nothing 45% of our lung capacity would have gone. That's bad news for our strength, stamina and disease-fighting power. There is no matching medicine for our body than fresh oxygen.

Spare a few moments as you read this article, whatever position you are in. Just pause and reflect on how you are breathing, where you are sending your breath - try to identify if it is a smooth, full, relaxed breath pattern or an irregular, shallow and agitated pattern you are experiencing. Try in your mind eye to channel the breath into the whole area of your lungs, visualize it rippling down to the bottom ribs and filling up the bottom like a balloon, concentrating not only in the anterior parts but also the sides and the posterior aspects.

Feel the ribs expanding 3-dimensionally as your breath becomes fuller, but try to avoid lifting the shoulders and tensing your neck. Was it easy? What did you experience? Some of you may have found it challenging and even got light headed in the process perhaps? This may indicate that you are not breathing to your full lung capacity and it is perfectly normal to feel new sensations as you begin to breathe deeper, into the underused parts of the lower alveoli of the lungs.

In these regions, stagnant air and toxins await and multiply and if we do not breathe correctly they remain, festering in our bodies. Breathing polluted air and smoking does not help, but becoming aware of oxygenating our bodies through deeper breathing is a beginning in this purification process. Imagine a river and a pond. Which one would you associate breath pattern with? A pond’s water is shallow, full of aquatic plants and marsh, torpid. It lacks wave action which is symbolic of stillness and lack of vitality.

In a stream or a river, water is clear, forever moving, changing - symbolizing energy. Feeling lethargic and lacking vitality signifies poor oxygenation in our body and mind.

Breathing correctly can help us fight fatigue, stress and muscular tension. A better oxygenation helps our circulatory system, our cardio vascular system and even our central nervous system, as with breathing we relax and concentrate better. On average we breathe more than 20000 times a day, every day – but we pay no attention to it. We at times even forget to breathe and yet it is so important: it is indeed the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we die. A blood circulating in our body without oxygen is not efficient, our brain without oxygen will not function properly: if we don’t breathe fully we are not living fully. When our lung volume drops, our oxygen reduces, our mind becomes foggy, our energy dries up. Simple tasks like going up the stairs can leave us breathless. If you only exercise within your current aerobic limits your aerobic capacity is never going to improve.

Long, slow cardio training is not going to give us a reserve capacity of oxygen which we need at times of stress or higher exertion. Working out for shorter periods at a higher intensity with periods of rest will help us restore and increase our reserve capacity for the health of our lungs, heart and blood vessels. Harvard researchers published a couple of articles a few years ago stating that intensity and not long duration exercise is the key to a healthy heart and longevity. In addition high intensity interval training burns your excess fat more effectively not only whilst you exercise but also many hours afterwards during your resting periods.

Let’s keep breathing effectively and train our diaphragms and hearts, very important muscles in our body, just like we train all of the other muscles in our body.