Did you know that…
Breathing practices can go well beyond incorporating breathing techniques during your yoga practice? Breathwork can be a powerful therapeutic practice that encompasses a wide range of exercises used to relieve mental, physical and/or emotional tension.
Breathwork and the physical body
When you think of breathing, you probably think of the physical aspect of breathing – the inhaling and exhaling. Breathing is indeed a vital part of life. It supplies oxygen which enters our bloodstream and which we release in the form of carbon dioxide.
So, on the level we’re exploring today—the physical—breathing practices are primarily about learning to breathe more effectively and easily, and also about transforming restricted breathing patterns. This is because most people take in less air than they would otherwise be able to, due to closed and restricted breathing patterns.
The human body is carefully designed to absorb 75% of its energy needs through breathing. Yes, before what we ingest in the form of food or drink, oxygen is the most fundamental unit of fuel that we carry in our body. In addition, we also eliminate 70% of our toxins through breathing – oxygen cleans cells by oxidation and allows waste to be transported back to the lungs by the bloodstream. Given these basic facts, it’s easy to see why learning to breathe correctly is one of the foundations for supporting and maintaining our health and well-being.
Interestingly, as human beings, we know a lot about other machines: cars, computers, aircraft… But we are not educated to get to know our own “machine”. Most of us are not aware of this fundamental metabolic process. Therefore, more than 90% of people use less than 50% of their breathing capacity.
The results of these shallow breathing are low energy levels, toxin buildup, high stress levels, and stagnant emotional states.
The countless benefits of breathwork
Oriental cultures have known for thousands of years that breathing is the main means of accessing our body’s vital force.
For example, when our body operates under stress (the so-called fight or flight system), it releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which accelerate our breathing increase tension. This triggers a state of hyper-vigilance.
Abdominal breathing can help to reverse this response and relax the body. By putting emphasis on the use of the diaphragm and inviting the muscles of the neck and chest to relax, we allow a greater amount of oxygen to reach the cells and organs of the body. The benefits are, often immediate: we activate our parasympathetic nervous system which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, creating a sense of calm.
This is just one of many scientifically proven facts about the influence of breathing on our physical body. Others include:
- Improved breathing capacity by opening the lungs and ribcage
- Transformation of restricted breathing patterns
- Increased oxygenation throughout the body
- Reduction of tension and stress levels
- Increased vital energy
- Stimulation and improvement of circulation
- Improvement in many conditions such as respiratory diseases, headaches, low energy, psychosomatic diseases, anaerobic diseases, etc.
And much more can be explored about this. Today we talked about the body. On the next article our focus will be on emotions. Our journey through the fantastic world of breath goes on…