A Number One Tip for Wellness? Focus on Your Breathing
By Nicholas Auger
Wellness of the spirit, mind and body of course calls for balanced nutrition and regular exercise. But there’s one more thing you could be doing to improve your health. Here’s a hint: You’re doing it right now. Breathing!
While we can survive without food and water, we cannot live without regular intake of oxygen – it’s the single most important function of the body. We may assume breathing is automatic and something we don’t have to think about. But actually, proper breathing can promote relaxation and self-awareness and improve your overall health. Here are two points to keep in mind to make sure you’re taking your best breaths.
Rule #1: Use your nose
Take a few minutes and focus on your breathing. When doing this, note that you should be breathing in and out of your nose. This is important for several reasons.
When we breathe in through the nose, our nose hairs filter incoming particles and pollution. Then, when we exhale, the nose expels debris. This added resistance makes the lungs work harder, increasing oxygen flow. Through the nose passage we also regulate the temperature of the air we breathe as it enters our body. The nose warms the air to prevent drying in the lungs and bronchial tubes.
If you find yourself breathing through your mouth, it could be because your nose is clogged due to allergies, a sinus infection, or stress and anxiety. Talk to your doctor, and then make a consistent, conscious effort to breathe through your nose. Keep in mind that using your mouth regularly for breathing – instead of your nose – can result in periodontal disease, throat and ear infections and halitosis (bad breath).
The exception to this best practice? During strenuous exercise, you should focus on breathing in quickly and deeply through your nose and then exhaling through your mouth.
Rule #2: Take complete breaths
Another thing to note about breathing is that breaths should be slow, deep and complete.
This is important because deep breathing increases cardiovascular capacity and the amount of oxygen that gets sent to our cells. Deep breathing expels toxins from the lungs that have been picked up through the circulatory process. And, as you breathe deeply, the diaphragm moves and massages and stimulates the organs. Moreover, taking complete breaths promotes relaxation, reduces stress and increases mental clarity.
For breaths to be complete, every inhale should fill your lungs and every exhale should empty your lungs. Doing this engages your entire torso. Start with your low torso, breathing in as your belly expands. Continue taking in the breath slowly until your ribs expand and your chest and shoulders lift.
Practice taking 10 complete nose breaths feeling the breath work up through your torso. This is considered essential breath meditation, and it can do wonders in improving wellbeing of the spirit, mind and body.
To learn more about ways to transform your health, contact the health and wellness professionals at your YMCA.
About Nicholas Auger:
Nicholas found fitness through his BFA in sculpture. Now, instead of metal and wood, he focuses on enriching communities through creating programs that sculpt spirit, mind and body. Ten years of teaching yoga, kids Yoga, group exercise, and personal fitness training has led him to the role of Health and Wellness Director at the Downtown Denver YMCA.