"Breathing eliminates 70% of the wastes from the body; it’s one of the body’s best ways to clean itself."
For the first half of all the yoga classes I teach, I call out every inhalation and exhalation. In my mind, thinking “inhale,” when I’m inhaling and “exhale,” when I’m exhaling is a superb way to practice presence and also to be in gratitude of life itself.
I believe we feel good after yoga class for many reasons. In most classes, the spine gets a chance to move in all of its directions and therefore it feels elongated and supple. In yoga, we ask the mind to take a break from being in charge, which helps us to feel more relaxed and open. And perhaps the most important reason we feel good after yoga is from breathing in and out deeply, consistently and rhythmically for an extended period of time.
Breathing is an incredible system, synonymous with our survival and one of the body’s best ways to clean itself. According to the AHHA, “A full 70% of the elimination of wastes from the body is through breathing.”
Put simply by Dr. Craig Freudenrich, “[The lungs] take a gas that your body needs to get rid of (carbon-dioxide) and exchange it for a gas that your body can use (oxygen).”
Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just breathing, in order for these cleaning processes to be in place, we must breath well. The AHHA’s Joel McPherson says that, “Breathing correctly is critical to maintaining the level of oxygen for energy, keeping the correct pH levels in the body, and good enough carbon dioxide for bodily functions.
Shallow shoulder breathing won’t make the cut, this kind of breathing will “[invite] problems by delivering less air per breath into the lungs. Less air per breath leads to a higher number of breaths, putting in motion a series of physiological changes that constrict blood vessels. Less oxygen reaches the brain, the heart and the rest of the body as a result. Less productive exhale causes an imbalance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the lungs and a buildup of toxins that should have been eliminated through breathing.”
“Don’t hold your belly in!” McPherson adds, “As we grow older, we are taught to "suck in that gut" and "puff out that chest" as we try to achieve as slim a waist as possible. Such resistance to the natural breathing posture restricts oxygen intake, which can lead to numerous physical as well as emotional problems.
How To Breath Well:
1) Make yourself comfortable, laying on the floor or sitting in a chair with your legs uncrossed and both soles of your feet firmly planted on the floor.
2) Place your hands on the outside rim of your rib cage, soften eyes or close your eyes.
3) Inhale and feel your ribcage expanding wide out to the sides; try not to let your shoulders lift up towards your ears at all during breathing. Repeat several times.
4) Place both hands, one on top of the other on your belly. As you inhale feel your belly expand forward and even widen out to the right and left and as you exhale feel your belly condense back in towards your back. Breathe like that for a few rounds—slow deep quiet inhales and exhales, keeping your shoulders out of the equation.
In addition to these profound physical implications, breathing well can effect our emotions positively. The Detox Diva articulates, “Your breath will respond and does adjust according to what you are thinking, feeling, observing, hearing, tasting, touching, sensing or experiencing at any given time. It is intimately connected to your physical, emotional and spiritual state.”
Take the opportunity that each breath gives you. Each breath is a new beginning. Allow yourself to feel present and connected in the moment. BE in the space your exhalation allows, let go of the old, the past, let go of fear, anything that no longer serves you.
Whatever we put or attention on grows. Put your attention on your breath, doing so will increase its cleansing capacities and keep you grounded in the present moment. Breathing deeply is a free, you can do it anywhere and it's actually a relaxing way to Spring clean--happy cleaning friends!
Breathing Well Extra Credit:
Dr. Andrew Weil says that if he could only give one tip for better health it would be to breathe properly. His favorite breathing technique is a 4-7-8 exercise.
Remember, when you’re doing this exercise, you’re breathing all the way down into your ribs and belly:
1) Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth and exhale completely through your mouth so that you make a whoosh sound
2) Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4
3) Hold your breath for 7 counts
4) Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8
5) Repeat three times