The Importance of the Breath


“Life is a process of being an organising whole” – Mae Wan Ho: The Rainbow and the Worm. The physics of Organisms.

Every cell in the body is utterly dependent upon oxygen. Without oxygen, no cell can continue to live for more than a few minutes. Furthermore, if a cell is receiving just enough oxygen to stay alive, but not enough to thrive its function declines markedly. When it happens to muscle tissue cells, they hurt. When it happens to brain cells, it causes a feeling of emotional distress.

Conversely, if the cells of the body and brain are receiving an abundant supply of oxygen, this oxygen confers feelings of energy and optimal mood.

On inhalation, Oxygen enters the bloodstream in the lungs, through the alveolar sacs, and attaches to the haemoglobin of red blood cells, which carry it throughout the body. When a cell receives oxygen from a capillary, it exchanges an approximately equal amount of the gaseous waste carbon dioxide, which is carried back to the lungs and expelled through exhalation. This energy exchange occurs every moment of your life.

Inhalation occurs by contraction of the three diaphragm muscles, chiefly the large diaphragm muscle at the base of the lungs. The contraction of the diaphragm, and the associated expansion of the lungs, exerts a number of critically important functions.

Therefore, conscious breathing assists:

* Stimulation of blood circulation. Blood circulation is the prime physical nourisher of the body and brain, and the mechanism for cellular disposal. Blood circulation is also enhanced by the effect of the lungs on the liver. When breathing is shallow or irregular, blood accumulates in the liver, causing swelling. This decreases blood flow to the alimentary canal causing digestive problems.

* Toning of the Nervous System including the peripheral nerves.

* Direct cleansing of the lungs. Deep powerful breaths eliminate a great deal of toxic and noxious debris.  It can help prevent respiratory infections. Breathing exercises also confer a high degree of immunity to tuberculosis.

* Mood regulation. Conscious breathing is one of the best ways to calm oneself and reduce or change the feelings of fear, anger and pain. Breathing deeply has an impact upon a part of the brain known as the peri-aqueductal grey area. (PAG). This is an important nodal point where many nerves come together. This nodal point is the site of the body’s largest supply of opiate receptors, which can help to decrease uncomfortable emotional feelings and help control anger and fear and pain.

This relief from pain, anger and fear is also a powerful boost to healing. New research has shown consistent, powerful, positive shifts in mood when the correct type of breathing is used in a walking meditation programme. Moreover, energy levels are rapidly elevated while chronic pain is diminished. Healing occurs in the sacred space of calmness and confidence, not amid the turmoil of fear, anger and pain.

Another reason that deep, controlled, rhythmic breathing helps heal is because it shifts the body away from the fight-or-flight mode. When this mode happens too frequently for too long, it destroys the body. Opportunistic illnesses strike. Viruses spread. Bacteria proliferate. The glands and organs of the fight-or-flight mode become exhausted. The heart may begin to beat erratically. The endocrine glands that provide zest and youth degenerate. Muscles may begin to ache with symptoms of fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue symptoms may appear. Aging sets in. Illness occurs

All this can be overcome with proper healthy breathing. Whenever you get the chance, stop, inhale deeply, bring the energy up, and then exhale again through the nose. This will keep you calm, centred, relaxed and at peace.

There are many breathing techniques one can learn in order to cope with specific situations.

Recommended Reading.
Meditation as Medicine. Dharma Singh Khalsa MD

Breath you are Alive. Thich Nhat Hanh.

Breath by Breath – Larry Rosenberg.

Full Catastrophe Living – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Coming to our Senses – Jon Kabat-zin
Prayers of the Cosmos. Neil Douglas-Klotz