Breathing is the most magical thing that is happening in our lives, we breathe 25,000 thousand times a day never stops from the beginning of our lives till we die; there is no difference between our breath and the waves of the ocean it has a distinctive and particular rhythm, that changes like the ocean from peaceful to tormented, in essence, the breath captures the experience of the moment we are going through, it’s the reflection of our subtle body. The physical body is how our bodies are seen by other people, the subtle body is how you feel about yourself.
A baby breathes better than we do and it only interchanges 10% of the capacity of the lungs a whale interchanges 90%. With time is not even 10%, the sitting and standing muscle deteriorated, the respiratory system collapsed. The danger of this is that we are poisoning our own bodies, we can’t get reed of the carbon dioxide, and the interchanges of gases it’s not efficient.
What regulates our breath is not as many people think the amount of oxygen that the body needs but the amount of carbon dioxide that we have in our bodies. The air we inhale has 21 percent of oxygen; the air we exhale has 18 percent of oxygen meaning that we extracted only 3 percent of oxygen. On the other hand, the air we inhale has 0.04 amount of carbon dioxide when we exhale 3.5. So what it really regulates how many breaths we take per minute is the amount of carbon dioxide that we need to eliminate.
Consequently the more we inhale the more we exhale and the less breath we take per minute. The key point in breathing is exhalation. It is like a glass full of water it needs to be empty in order to fill it up again, it is the same with the lungs, many people never empty complete the lungs, and the bottom of the lungs are the right environment for growing bacteria.
The art of breathing in the Vedic tradition is called Pranayama, Prana is the life force or air and Yama meaning manipulation control or enhancement of the breath, there are hundreds of different techniques, the correct use of Pranayama conduct a person to a dipper state of consciousness, all the physical aspects of Yoga, Tai chi or Qi Gong are designed to facilitate your meditation, to transcend your physical body.
Chinese tradition also focuses on the intricacies of the manipulation of the breath. Taoists masters were commanded by the emperors to look for immortality not only in the spiritual plane but in the physical as well, they experimented with animal products, plants, and minerals. The Taoists use the breath as the vehicle of transformation creating the most sophisticated and complicated breathing drills. These experiments of internal alchemy were compiled in the 13th centuries in a compendium called The Taoist Canon, which collected hundreds of exercises principally between the first to third centuries AD.
Breath is vital for our existence, all organisms are composed for a multitude of cells and they are dependent on a continuous flow of energy. We think that our foods are supplying us with the source of energy in terms of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. But unless these nutrients can be absorbed by the cells they are useless.
The actual process of respiration occurs within the cell where nutrient fuel is burned with oxygen to release energy.
The nose the trachea, lungs, circulatory system, and all the muscles involved in the respiratory system, contribute to transform or conduct the air to make it available to the cells. So the change of the pattern or deficiency of any parts of the respiratory system can affect the energy field.
The air takes a journey from the environment where is available to the cells.
As the air moves in inhalation through the filters of the nose, it encounters the trachea that is the main pass way to the lungs, it has a tubular form, and it’s smooth and located under Adam’s apple.
The trachea splits into two smaller tubes called bronchi one for each lung.
These bronchi have ramifications like branches of a tree, they become smaller and smaller to a microscopic size. The terminations are called bronchioles and each of them finishes in tiny sacs of air called alveoli, from there oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream moving from the capillaries of the alveoli.
Like in any other thing in life, it should be a balance, between the amount of blood flowing in the alveoli’s capillaries and the amount of oxygen brought by the respiratory system to the alveoli.
Studies show that the blood is not evenly distributed through the entire lung. Posture my affect this distribution of blood, gravity is an important factor to move the blood to the bottom of the alveoli.
The most efficient interchange of gases in and out of the alveoli happens in the upper part of the lungs. Nevertheless breathing with the upper part of the lungs is not necessarily efficient.
Serious problems appear when the alveoli are injured from smoking or other reasons, the multiple little chambers break down, so areas appear like a hole in the lung tissue. When a large count of alveoli is reduced, the condition is called emphysema. It happens silently during a period of time, the fumes destroy the delicate tissues of the alveoli.
All smokers have emphysema en certain degree, but since the condition develops slowly and there are so many areas for the diffusion of the oxygen, people are not aware of this condition.
Normally we have 300 million alveoli; if it will flatten them the surface will be as big as one bedroom apartment. Only when the decrease is ostensible, people will notice during exercise that they are out of breath.
Oxygen, when it gets to the capillaries, is transported in two ways, either can be bound with the hemoglobin molecule within the red blood cells or it can be dissolved directly into the blood.
Mostly all the oxygen is carried by the hemoglobin, the molecule has four protein chains attached to one atom of iron, it is the iron atom which attracts the oxygen and facilitates its transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
When oxygen is bound to the iron atom it’s oxygenated blood, and it’s red. Hemoglobin can also carry carbon dioxide a waste product.
Normally oxygen and carbon dioxide should be the only molecules which bond with hemoglobin; however, some other gases present in the environment can penetrate the blood’s stream through the lungs and basically crowding the hemoglobin displacing the oxygen. A common substance is carbon monoxide, which appears in great concentration in cigarettes and car exhaustion. Having an affinity for hemoglobin that is 240 times than oxygen, carbon monoxide attached to the hemoglobin molecule moving it from the oxygen transport system, with the reduction of hemoglobin running in the oxygenated blood it results in anemia.
People who smoke will have from 5 to15% of all the hemoglobin tied up with carbon monoxide that will contribute to harden the arteries or produce arteriosclerosis.
Once the hemoglobin is oxygenated, it still has to travel throughout the body delivering oxygen to individual cells, the force to impulse it is the heart. This organ is divided into two separated sections, the right that takes the blood with poor oxygen full of carbon dioxide (venous), and pumps it to the capillaries surroundings the lung’s alveoli, where the gas interchange occurs.
Then the newly oxygenated blood (arterial) is redistributed to the left side of the heart. The oxygenated blood has to squeeze through thin capillaries that are the same size as the alveoli surrounding the lungs. This times the capillaries surrounding the cells in other parts of the body (muscles, nerves, etc.) interchange gases in a similar way that happens with the hemoglobin in the lungs. Here waste carbon dioxide from the cell in exchange for oxygen from the red blood cell hemoglobin, depleting the blood oxygen and turning in blue. This blood will travel to successive larger veins, eventually going to the right side of the heart, and back to the lungs to complete the cycle.
The process of breathing occurs in the abdominal and thoracic cavities, so we will focus in the dynamics of the inhalation and exhalation, what muscles we need to utter in order to improve and facilitate the respiration.
The torso could be divided into three cavities the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. The Chest where the heart and lungs are located, the abdomen with the internal organs, and the pelvis with the reproductive and excretory organs are.
The diaphragm is a muscular membrane that divides the thoracic and abdominal regions, it’s the most important part of the respiratory process, and its shape is similar to an umbrella or a dome. His location is under the ribcage is hidden and not visible.
During the inhalation, the umbrella close, the muscle contracts, allowing the belly’s expansion and when you exhale the umbrella opens the muscle relax and the belly deflate. The clear concept of how the mechanics of the diaphragm works is essential to enhance the respiratory system. It’s useful to visualize the diaphragm being attracted by gravity, dropping like a weight, so the abdomen can expand, and the weight flows up when you exhale. Another image could be your torso as a cylinder although not perfectly round because the shape of the torso, imagine it’s possible to extend the whole cylinder pulling it from below.
You can simply place your hands on top of your abdomen and feel the natural rhythm of your breath the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. Feel like a baby breathing; an infant has not fully developed the clavicle or the sternum, so his breathing is exclusive with the diaphragm. This is the most efficient way of expanding the lungs to get the full capacity of oxygen in the inhalation and then allow your belly to relax slowly. The lungs have two layers of tissues surrounding them is called pleura, the internal surrounds the lungs the second slide with the first one with the help of the pleural fluid. This external pleura is connected with the lower part of the ribs, the diaphragm lift this part facilitating the lung’s expansion.
The second more important muscles responsible for the breathing are the internal and external intercostals; these are located in between the ribs, to clearly feel them, place your thumbs under the armpits and breathe. The external intercostals swing the muscles in between the ribs up and forward, increasing the diameter of the chest, the internals does the opposite draw the ribs down an in. This time the cylinder is expanded from the sides. Engaging the diaphragm and the intercostals simultaneously make possible from the air to reach the bottom of the lungs.
Chest breathing is the less efficient way of breathing, requires the spending of more amount of energy to perform the same task than the abdominal breathing, the heart is forced to work harder, and the lungs to take more frequent breaths.
Start your practice early in the morning be aware of the breath pattern, we usually breathe in a particular way, or a habit. Notice is your breath is chopping or relaxes; long or short, awareness is the only way to transform the irregular pattern of the breath.
Place one hand on your abdomen and the other in front of your chest; notice if any part of the three-part breathing is not moving. In order to focus in a particular area to enhance the breathing, use a mudra, bringing all the fingers to the center of the palm making a fist with the thumb out picture xx >. If you want to emphasize the abdominal breathing, the thumbs are pointing down, keeping the shoulders relax and down. While you are holding the mudra redirect the breath to the floor of the pelvis, the perineum, feeling the air at the bottom of the pelvis, creating spaces and room. Redirect the breath to the front, back and sides of the abdomen, and then focus in the diaphragm allowing this muscle to conduct the expansion of the abdomen in each possible direction. Continue till you feel the natural contraction of the diaphragm.
To work in the intercostals muscles bring the hands in front of your chest with the thumbs facing to each other, and notice the expansion of the external intercostals and contraction of the internal intercostals, lifting the ribs up and forward with each inhalation and down and in the exhalation.
To exercise the chest breathing, place your thumbs facing up in front of your chest and keeping the shoulders relax to allow the clavicle to lift to get full capacity in the lungs.
After you exercise each part individually than combine the three parts breathing for several minutes until is part of your natural breathing pattern.