We have a primary need for oxygen—from our skin and lungs down to our cellular level. Even our molecules and atoms need us to breathe, Breathing keeps blood oxygenated so it can pump and flow through the body. Well-oxygenated blood also helps the body distribute and absorb vitamins, especially vitamins C, D and the B’s. Vitamins A and K (found in the same food as C, D and B’s) help your blood maintain its oxygen levels.
What a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. These vitamins are also key with maintaining your physical health and emotional well-being in the cold and dark months of winter. How amazing! Our bodies know better than we do that breathing well helps us live well.
Breathing deeply and fully helps maintain your lung health. When you breathe shallowly, you only use the portion of your lungs closest to your trachea and bronchus. The exterior part, the part that all the mucus likes to settle into, becomes weak and dirty, covered with hardening mucus and easily infected nodules. Shallow breathing makes you more susceptible to colds, viruses, pneumonia, bronchitis, etc… Like any muscle, use it or lose it. We really have to work harder at this in the winter than the summer.
Another interesting thing about breathing fully: If you maintain a “core” posture, you are all set to breathe well. Your back is straight and your shoulders are relaxed. Especially in times of stress, it is important to breath fully, deeply and slowly. This keeps the “fight or flight” prone adrenaline at bay and allows your body to remain in a relaxed state of full focus.
On a Spiritual note, whether you are practicing yoga breaths or shamanic breathing, you will find kindred purposes for these deep breath techniques. When you inhale deeply, you send oxygen to every cell in your body. By holding our breath, you give your body a chance to absorb this oxygen and discharge accumulated debris and carbon dioxide. A slow exhale allows for full body release of these toxins before your next cleansing breath is begun. Deep and full body breathing is literally and exactly that.
A lovely breath meditation is to think of all the plants that provide us with life-preserving oxygen. Our air is a gift from them, filling each breath is love and blessings form nature. As we exhale carbon dioxide, we return the blessings by providing our plant brethren with their life affirming breath. This is a loving and symbiotic relationship that fills all participants with the Breath of Life.