Dr Amy Chadwick
Smile, breathe and go slowly ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathe…deeply inhale the spring air. The sun is shining, light has graced us with her presence again and the world is beginning to awake from its winter slumber. In this time of renewal…don’t forget to take a deep breath.
Humans can survive for days without food or water. But, without breath we last only minutes. Breathing is automatic, never requiring us to consciously think about it, or make it happen. So, why are we talking about it? In truth, the benefits of being conscious to our breath abound.
Conscious, slow, deep breathing calms the nervous system, supplies every cell in the body with needed oxygen, helps flush toxins from the lungs and tissues, and slows the heart rate. Yes, breathing is so much more than the simple exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide, and we have conscious control over our breath so that we can utilize it for our benefit.
A deep, slow breath depresses the diaphragm, the muscle that lies across the body between the lungs and the abdominal cavity, opening up more space for the lungs to expand. The stomach rises as the abdominal organs shift out of the way. The vagus nerve senses this diaphragmatic movement and sends a message back to the heart, lungs and nervous system, relaying there is no emergency, that the body and mind can relax. Deep, slow breathing automatically decreases heart rate and over time decreases blood pressure. Conscious breathing shuts off the fight/flight response triggered by our everyday stresses. When our body is relaxed, our brains and memory work more efficiently, our digestion is greatly improved, our inflammatory markers decrease, our immune function improves and best of all, we simply feel better.
So, how should we breathe? Good health is promoted with 100 deep breaths a day. To begin: while lying down, place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in through the nose for a count of six seconds, allowing the stomach to rise before the chest expands. Pause briefly at the end of the inhale, and then exhale slowly through the nose for another six counts, allowing the stomach to fall, and then the chest to collapse.
Breathing brings in the oxygen vital to our cells, it expels carbon dioxide and waste materials and it alleviates stress and tension.
So practice breathing with intention, eventually taking time each day while driving, working, playing with your children, working in the garden, or relaxing to breathe… 100 deep gentle, conscious breaths, allowing yourself to be present in each precious moment.
Happy breathing….Dr Amy