Most of us do not think twice about our pattern of breathing…because it is automatic, right? Well, yes, unconsciously we all continue to breathe due to our autonomic nervous system but to what extent do we truly give ourselves what our bodies need for optimum health?
Except for diseases associated with smoking, the respiratory organs have been largely ignored. By understanding a few basic principles of how the respiratory process works and interacts with the body and mind, we can gain more understanding of how our body functions on many different levels.
The effects of inhalation and exhalation extend far beyond the physical exchange of air in and out of the body…they extend to the workings of the heart and lungs as well as to subtle molecular processes through which the body’s energy production is maintained.
All life forms are composed of tiny living units called cells, each requiring a continuous source of energy. Our body’s tissues and organs are composed of these cells and they must function properly in order to keep us alive. The nutrients supplied by the food we eat act as a fuel but it must be converted into a form that these individual cells can use or we would die.
Respiration effects energy supply
Energy is produced through a process of combustion when oxygen combines with a fuel. A typical example of this is when we build a camp fire which produces carbon dioxide, water, heat and light. Naturally, a rapidly burning system such as this could not take place within our bodies and still keep us alive. However, when fuel is burned at an exceptionally slow rate there is no visible light and a steady source of energy is maintained. This process takes place in tiny subunits within the cell called mitochondria. These contain a series of specialized protein molecules or enzymes which transfer the energy released from the oxidation of our food to a storage molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP has the ability to deliver energy within the cells of the body, which in turn maintains the chemical reactions necessary for the cells to function normally.
Thus, the process of respiration occurs within the cell where nutrient fuel is burned with oxygen to release energy. The nose, trachea (windpipe), lungs, circulatory system, and attending muscles all act to transport oxygen from the air we breathe to make it readily available to individual cells. Each of these organs plays a crucial role in determining oxygen supply, and therefore the amount of energy available, to cells throughout the body. Energy production within the body could potentially be altered should any of these involved organs not function properly. It stands to reason, that an insufficient supply of oxygen to meet the body’s energy demands would result in a reduction of cellular functioning or even death.
Different patterns can take a toll
This leads us to a little recognized fact, that the importance of maintaining health is directly related to the quality of our breathing.
When we pay attention, we see that breathing is either…
• Diaphragmatic or thoracic
• Continuous or interrupted by pauses
• Rhythmical or irregular…
All affected by either our physical or emotional state.
We have all experienced changes in our breathing under varying circumstances such as fear, anger, sorrow and physical exertion…so each event affects the breath. Conversely, this relationship exists too, if we intentionally or unconsciously alter our pattern of inhalation and exhalation, it will affect our physical and emotional state.
Some of us have unintentionally set up physical responses to emotional triggers that over time become a habitual pattern of behavior. In other words, we interrupt a natural and healthy process of respiration. To correct the ill effects of this upon our mind and body we need to pay attention to our breath and practice quality breathing…
With repeated efforts, over time, we can re-train our muscles and automatic responses through breathing exercises to have a direct influence on our body’s total health.
There is much more that can be said about this essential life process than is said here. This page is intended as a basic introduction to the principle that quality breathing is essential to good health. I encourage each and every one of you to pay more attention to how you breathe.
In conclusion, another good health practice is to keep your internal nasal and sinus passages clear and healthy with frequent irrigations using a saline solution of warm salty water. Make sure that the salt is completely dissolved. I recommend the use of a sinus irrigation system or what is otherwise referred to as a “neti” pot and follow the easy instructions that are supplied with it.
Why a Nasal Wash?The nasal passages are lined with a thin layer of mucus that is one of our body’s first lines of defence against disease. A nasal wash keeps this layer of mucus moist, clean and healthy. And compared to other nasal wash techniques, such as snorting the solution, using the Neti Pot™ is very easy. This can be incorporated into your daily routine.
Use it anytime to:
• Remove excess mucus when feeling congested
• Remove pollen and other allergens.
• Cleanse the nasal membranes of airborne contaminants, such as dust or smoke.
• Relieve nasal dryness due to air travel, air conditioning or climate conditions.
• Improve flow of breath before doing a relaxation exercise.