Breathing is important for so many reasons. The lungs detoxify the body as the carbon dioxide that we exhale is a waste product of every cell in our body. Carbon dioxide is generated in the process of generating cellular energy. One might argue that breathing is the most crucial of all routes of elimination. To notice the immediacy of its effect, try to stop breathing for five minutes. The carbon dioxide must be removed from the body for the blood to exchange it for more oxygen. Oxygen in turn yields more energy and the cycle begins again.
By exhaling carbon dioxide and exchanging it for oxygen, the lungs also maintain tight control over the acid/base balance of the blood and surrounding tissues. Carbon dioxide acts as an acid in the body and inflammation occurs when excess acidity accumulates. In fact, you cannot have inflammation without acidity.
In addition, the lungs serve a crucial rhythmic role in the body. In synch with the heartbeat, the breath rate can be calming to the nervous system by stimulating the vague nerve rhythmically. Patients obtain a great amount of benefit to their emotional stability, mental focus and stress levels by incorporating deep breathing into their daily routine. One inhalation should last the same amount of time as five heartbeats and an exhalation as much as ten beats of the heart. Just as we eat, sleep and work in synch with the circadian rhythm and menstruate with the lunar cycle, the breathing/heart rate acts as a lesser rhythm which synchronizes our body’s physiological activity. When these internal clocks become inconsistent, the body suffers multiple hormonal and nervous imbalances that can lead to innumerable patient complaints including poor sleep, weight gain, aches and pains, digestive distress, fatigue, variations in mood, headaches, and many more.
Energetically, the lungs are the organs of communication. Not only do the lungs generate the air that passes over the vocal chords to produce speech, but trees take in the carbon dioxide we exhale and, in turn, give off the oxygen we breathe. This give and take between ourselves and the outside world integrates our human physiology into a larger scheme, universal sustainability. In addition, the lungs in Chinese medical theory represent the organ of grief. So, when examining the underlying reasons for your lung symptoms, your naturopath might consider these energetic influences.
what’s the skinny?
Studies have shown that the yogic practice of unilateral nostril breathing modifies the central nervous system. Utilized correctly, this exercise can alter mental clarity/focus and the body’s alertness as controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Depending on whether you use the right/left nostril or breathe unilaterally through alternating nostrils, the benefits can be lowered blood pressure, decreased anxiety, increased cognitive ability and decreased heart rate variability. There are quantifiable effects on the autonomic nervous system particularly in the eye where decreases in intraocular pressure are measurable.
Check out these links to read more about the positive benefits of unilateral nostril breathing:
Benefits of Cerebral Breathing
Benefits of Unilateral Nostril Breathing
Effects of Unilateral Nostril Breathing on the Nervous System
What to do?
The physicians at Bambú Clinic recommend this simple breathing exercise. To start, we suggest that you incorporate 100 deep conscious breaths per day into your routine. Deep refers to a breath into your belly, not one that elevates your shoulders. Your belly should fill up first followed by your chest. Conscious means that you are thinking about breathing while you are doing it. Placing your attention on your breathing increases the stress management benefits of this exercise. All that is required is that you count as you inhale slowly and, then, exhale for twice the time of the inhalation. When you get better at this technique, try to inhale while your heart beats five times and exhale as it beats ten. Once you have mastered this technique, you should complete only 4-6 breathing cycles each minute. The idea is to breathe while you are stopped at a traffic light, or standing in line at the grocery store. Place reminders on your makeup mirror or in your wallet. Do five breaths here and ten more there. Soon you will be doing 100 daily with no trouble at all.
We hope you found this information helpful. We strive to help our patients find a healthy way in the world. If you have topics you’d like us to address in future issues, please let us know. We are always available for questions and comments.
The Physicians of Bambú Clinic