I read something interesting this past week detailing just how important deep breathing is and that it is one of the body’s strongest self-healing tools. I took a deep breath as I read all about how it lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rates, decreases stress hormones, oxygenates the blood, exercises the lungs, increases physical and mental energy, and improves immunity. Wow. Quite a lot for a simple “just breathe” tip, right?
I knew some of this but not all of it. As luck would have it, I had my yoga practice the day I read all about the benefits of good breathing and my amazing yoga instructor Nicki of course knows all about all of this. Yoga, as any of you yogis know, is big on big, deep breaths. It’s just one of the many things I love about yoga as closing my eyes and breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth calms me, centers me, and drains my brain. Now I know it does all that and so much more.
Think about it, breathing means life. Without it; we are dead. In talking about this after class, we all talked about how important proper breathing is in activities like swimming. Nicki also pointed out that babies breathe from their bellies, not their chests. Watch a baby breathe and you’ll see their bellies go up and down in perfect yoga “big belly breath” sequence. Sadly, as that baby grows up he or she, like most of us, start inhaling and exhaling with “chests breaths,” those quick and tense breaths that we are all guilty of. We learn chest breathing through life and all of life’s experiences. It’s time to take a deep breath and change that habit.
You might call that kind of breathing “labored breathing” and where do you also hear about labored breathing? When and while a woman is in labor! Hard, painful breaths are instructed as she pushes to bring life out into the world. Not a type of breathing we should all strive for in our daily lives, right? And speaking of hospitals, let’s all take a moment to remember all the horror stories we heard regarding Covid including desperate breathing issues and ventilator desperation stories. As I write this, a dear friend’s granddaughter is at a hospital as she was not breathing well. We are all hoping and praying that God will breathe life into her little lungs and send her on her way back home where she can do all those healthy baby belly breaths.
Webster defines the word “breathe” as “to draw air into and expel from the lungs; to inhale and exhale.” In order to achieve those big beneficial breaths mentioned above, it’s important to breath into your belly, pulling it back toward your torso, and then release that breath boldly and allow your belly to expand. Oh the horror, right? Aren’t we supposed to hold our stomachs in to achieve maximum style points? Yes and no, holding the stomach in has many benefits but try to relax it as you breathe and remember, the exhale is as important as the inhale.
This is true in the animal kingdom as well. When our beloved dog Nikki recently suffered a near fatal bout of pneumonia, our first clue that something was wrong was noticing her labored and unnatural breathing while she slept. It alarmed us and prompted us to get her urgent care. Nicki mentioned that one of her dogs has an enlarged heart, as does our Nikki, and we’ve both been told by our vets to count their breathing to make sure it’s not too labored and or fast.
The idea of breathing even makes its way into the world of sommeliers as it’s often said wine needs to “breathe” in order to develop its flavor and bouquet. We also use the word to express confidentiality or secrecy when we utter, “Don’t breath a word about it.”
We are often told to “just breathe” or “breathe deep” when things are going awry or we are feeling stressed and anxious and “take a deep breath” is often code for “calm the heck down” before being told to “take a breather.” What does this tell us? It tells us breathing, but breathing right, is essential and key to healthy living both emotionally and physically.
I love when a message clearly conveys itself to me as breathing has the past few days. Even this morning as I played my morning meditation and reflection app, (“Pray as You Go” if you’re wondering…it’s short and it’s awesome!) I was first instructed to take in some deep breaths as I examined my week. It totally inspired an “I feel a blog coming” mood and it also reminded me that Jesus breathed on His disciples to calm their fears and inspire in them the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
It doesn’t take a biblical scholar or rocket scientist to remind us that breathing is living and in order to live a healthy life, we’d do ourselves a big favor to breathe deep and fill those bellies with air. Take a breather this week and pay attention to how you breathe. Doing so just may take your breath away.