There seems to be a lot of media focus recently on “breathing” and “the breath”. Maybe it’s like noticing more red cars on the road after having just bought one, but it seems like there are so many more articles being published on the importance of breathing for the benefit of both mind and body.
We can go without food for a long time. We can go without water for a moderate amount of time. But we can’t go without oxygen for more than a few minutes. Breathing is critical to life. All too often we take it for granted; after all, it’s a natural and automatic function and something we rarely even notice.
“Just by paying attention to breathing, you can access new levels of health and relaxation that will benefit every area of your life.” — Deepak Chopra, MD.
During the next several weeks I will be publishing a series of articles on the most effective ways to breathe to get the maximum energy benefit. I’ll be writing about deep breathing vs. shallow breathing; abdominal breathing vs. chest breathing; The new trend of “hyperventilation”; how personal energy is derived from breathing; meditation and breathing; spiritual meaning of breath and breathing (the word breath is derived from the Latin: Spiritus); breathing and voice quality as an indication of aging; and other points related to breathing.
Let me start by saying that the body has a tremendous filtering system. By the time most air gets to your lungs and into your bloodstream, it has been well filtered. That doesn’t mean you should stand in the middle of an Interstate Highway with a lot of truck traffic, and go through a series of deep breathing exercises. It does mean that if you are a runner, running on a local road with normal automobile traffic shouldn’t present a major problem. It also means that if you are a normal adult, breathing most air on a day to day basis shouldn’t cause alarm.
The normal respiration rate of the average adult, including seniors, is between 9 and 15 breaths per minute plus or minus a few either side of that range. This assumes you are at rest and not exerting yourself. Normally your respiration rate will increase with exertion and will slow down as you recover. Duh! Your respiration rate can also be affected by medications of various varieties. It will often decrease with narcotic based medications and alcohol. Respiration can increase as a result of other medications. Your doctor knows best. Shortness of breath or rapid, uncontrollable breathing can indicate a major medical problem — time to see your doctor.
So much has been written on the proper way to breathe that most adults understand the difference between proper abdominal breathing and breathing with the upper chest. How do you know if you are using abdominal breathing? Lie down on the floor (on your back please) and put your hand on your abdomen. Breathe in. Your abdominal area should rise and expand. Exhale and your abdominal area should contract. It’s that simple. But many of us were taught, as kids, that it’s the other way around. Now you know.
The oxygen you take in is absorbed into your bloodstream and transported throughout your body to the cells where it is converted to energy for your body to function. During the next several weeks, I will be covering many aspects of breathing and how your respiratory system works to energize and vitalize your body (and your mind). I’ll also mention how some new research on oxygen use in the body, including purposeful hyperventilation, is leading to increased performance abilities of some athletes, and how it can be adapted to your own daily life.
I think you’ll find the upcoming articles on oxygen consumption and energy conversion in the body to be interesting and personally useful. Your personal energy as a senior is dependent on how you breathe.
Thank you for reading.