Proper breathing is vital for ensuring that your body gets all the oxygen it needs, as well as for expelling carbon dioxide and various waste matter when you exhale. As obvious as this may seem, in reality few people breathe fully and efficiently.
In fact, although the lung capacity in adult human beings is approximately two gallons, most people only inhale an average of 20 to 25 percent of that as they breathe. And because most of the energy you need to live and function comes more from the oxygen you breathe, such inefficient breathing results in a significant loss of potential energy.
To help determine how well you are breathing, try this easy exercise: Breathe normally and then hold your breath at the end of your exhalation. If you can hold your breath for one minute or more, you are in good shape.
Most people can only hold their breath for 15 seconds like this, a certain indication that they are not breathing efficiently.
Simply put, the more fully and efficiently you breathe, the more energy you will have and the healthier you will be.
The importance of breathing properly has been recognized for thousands of years by spiritual seekers, yogis, tai chi masters, and healers, all of whom have used the powers of breathing to not only improve their health, but to also transform their consciousness and improve the quality of their thoughts.
In modern times, research has confirmed that various breathing techniques can help bring about altered states of consciousness and promote profound healing.
Learning to breathe fully and consciously is known as breathwork, the benefits of which go far beyond improving physical health. Proper breathing can also improve your mood, enhance mental alertness, and help you become more aware of deeply held and often painful, unhealed emotions and beliefs.
Researchers in the field of breathwork therapy consider that the primary root cause of shallow, inefficient breathing for most people occurred when they were born. The moment of birth is traumatic for newborns, and is the time when they are first forced to breathe on their own.
This breath comes in response to the harsh shock of being outside of the womb, an event that can be both painful and confusing. In order to cope with and suppress such pain, newborns typically follow their first inhalation with a pause, momentarily holding their breath as they struggle to make sense of their new environment.
This pause can trigger a lifetime of shallow, inefficient breathing, and condition the newborn to suppress pain and its related emotions instead of breathing into them so that they can heal.
You can observe this pattern in yourself the next time you experience shock, fear, pain, or worry. If you take a moment to observe yourself at the onset of such events, you will most likely find yourself holding your breath or breathing very shallowly.
By practicing breathwork, you can begin to change such patterns to that you begin to breathe more fully, and with greater awareness.
There are many approaches to breathwork therapy, ranging from age-old practices such as yogic breathing (pranayama) and the breathing exercises of tai chi and qigong, to a variety of modern methods developed by breathwork pioneers such as Gay Hendricks, Leonard Orr, and Stanislav Grof.
All modern versions of breathwork incorporate a conscious focus on the breath, along with learning how to move the energy of the breath through the body in order to connect with and resolve suppressed emotions and limiting beliefs.
In addition, all such methods utilize what Leonard Orr calls "conscious, connected breathing," meaning that there is no pause between each inhalation and exhalation.
Breathwork is best learned under the guidance and supervision of a trained and experienced breathwork therapist. Typically, 10 to 20 sessions with such a therapist is enough to be able to then incorporate conscious breathing into your daily life.
There are also a variety of energizing breathing exercises you can do on your own. Try experimenting with this exercise three times a day (morning, evening, and before bed).
Inhale deeply and then chant the vowels while holding your breath—A-E-I-O-U. You will feel the energy moving from your chest to your abdomen. After two minutes your blood pressure and pulse will drop.
As you do so, you will most likely begin to experience a noticeable improvement in your energy, your mood, and your mental clarity.
(Adapted from Outstanding Health: The 6 Essential Keys To Maximize Your Energy and Well Being by Michael Galitzer MD and Larry Trivieri Jr. For more information, visit www.outstandinghealthbook.com)
Posts by Michael Galitzer, M.D. and Larry Trivieri Jr.
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