How to Breathe Like a Baby

How to Breathe Like a Baby 1200 800 Nate Guadagni

Breathing correctly is the key to better fitness, muscle strength, stamina, and athletic endurance.

— Dr. Michael Yessis, President, Sports Training Institute

Have you ever watched a baby while he or she is asleep? They sleep so soundly and seem so totally relaxed, most adults can’t help but envy them a bit. As they sleep, the whole abdomen and chest rises and falls with each breath.

Really, that’s how we all should be breathing — deeply into our abdomen. Unfortunately, the stresses and tensions of life cause most of us to breathe much more shallowly, often only using a fraction of our lung capacity. This leaves us in a state of perpetual oxygen deprivation. We breathe enough to live, but not really enough to thrive as we could.

Scientists agree that oxygen plays a primary role in our overall health and well-being. Dr. Otto Warburg, president of the Institute of Cell Physiology and the only person to ever win the Nobel Prize in medicine twice, says, “Deep breathing techniques that increase oxygen to the cells are the most important factors in living a disease-free and energetic life… Remember: where cells get enough oxygen, cancer will not, cannot occur.” In his book Antioxidant Adaptation, biochemist Stephen Levine writes: “Oxygen plays a pivotal role in the proper functioning of the immune system. We can look at oxygen deficiency as the single greatest cause of all diseases.”

Oxygen is the most important nutrient to the cells in your body, and it plays an integral role in almost every body function. It is responsible for producing up to 90 percent of your body’s energy, and it makes up approximately 96 percent of your body’s nutritional needs. You can live without food for forty days, without water for about seven days, but without oxygen you will die in just a few minutes.

Although water makes up 65 to 75 percent of the human body, oxygen makes up 90 percent of the water molecule. Our brains, the most oxygen-hungry part of our bodies, make up two percent of our total mass, yet requires 20 percent of the body’s oxygen needs.

In our bodies, 80 percent of all our metabolic energy production is created by oxygen. Our metabolic processes work to rid our bodies of waste and toxins. Even our abilities to think, feel, and act require oxygen-related energy production. Oxygen also plays a vital role in metabolic functions such as blood circulation, digestion, the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of wastes. Sufficient oxygen helps the body in its ability to rebuild itself and maintain a strong and healthy immune system.

During exercise oxygen is moved through the body by two of the vital organs — the heart and the lungs. The lungs bring oxygen into the body, which provides energy and removes carbon dioxide, while the heart pumps the oxygen to the muscles that are doing the exercise.

Traditional Asian medical practitioners understood this long before it was understood by Western scientists. The Chinese character chi, which is commonly understood to mean “energy,” more literally means “breath.” The greatest benefits of chi gong, tai chi, and other energy cultivation methods comes through the focused breathing exercises that combine the power of the mind with the power of the breath. In Bo Yoga, breath, combined with stretching and movement, acts like a pump that circulates the energy through the body.

Bo Yoga facilitates proper breathing in three major ways. First, the physical structures responsible for breathing are all enhanced through regular practice. The lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles are all stretched and strengthened through Bo Yoga, which develops a larger and more stable lung capacity to bring more oxygen in and to move more carbon dioxide out.

Proper breathing is also dependent on proper posture. As you are reading this, check your posture for a moment, especially your spinal position. As you notice your posture, do you naturally straighten your spine and inhale? If you are like most people, your posture is mildly suffocating you and restricting the flow of oxygen to your body, brain, and to all of your cells. Bo Yoga helps alleviate skeletal problems caused by poor posture by opening joints and realigning the spine, which in turn allows for better, more complete breaths.

Also, the dynamic nature of the Bo Yoga class cultivates better breathing habits. The moderately strenuous, fast-paced warm-ups increase your heart rate and stimulate your muscles, which in turn increase your breathing rate and move oxygen rich blood to your whole body. The deep stretches and relaxation at the end of classes allow the heart and lungs to relax and fully absorb the oxygen into the cells.

Finally, the Bo Yoga class is filled with conscious reminders to breathe deeply and to be aware of your breath, which brings mindfulness and self-modification to your breathing patterns. You will develop better breathing habits naturally as you practice Bo Yoga, but to begin, try improving your breathing capacity through exercises that open your chest and lengthen your spine. Work on increasing your oxygen circulation to all the cells of your body through moderate exercise, stretching, and movement. Give your heart and lungs a break by learning how to slow down your nervous system with meditation and relaxation. You will learn more about this in chapter 7 of Bo Yoga : Taking Yoga Further, which is about stress relief.

Breathing is a critical element in all meditation and mindfulness practices because the breath is one of the few vital functions of the body that can be managed consciously. Unlike your heartbeat, your digestion, and other vital functions, your breath can be improved and developed immediately. Simply taking deeper breaths will instantaneously improve your blood pressure, heart rate, and nervous system. There is no question that lack of oxygen due to improper breathing is one of the most important problems to address when seeking to improve your energy and health.

Finally, breathing is critical for the expansion of your awareness of self as an energy being. Ilchi Lee, founder of Dahn Yoga and author of Change: Realizing Your Greatest Potential, writes: “If you close your eyes and begin to feel your breath, it will instantly become deeper and slower, and your mind will become calmer. Then gradually you’ll become aware of your body, or more precisely the subtle sense of energy inside and around your body. At that moment, you exist as Energy-Consciousness, not as names, jobs, duties, roles, desires, and so on.”

In other words, as you breathe in, you breathe in the energy of the universe and become one with the entire universe. As you breathe out, you return what you don’t need, and you ready yourself for the next breath. In this way, you become one with the constant ebb and flow that is high and low tide, night and day, waking and sleeping… the give and take that is the cycle of life itself.

8 Breathing Meditations Bring Inner Peace in 10 Minutes

8 Breathing Meditations Bring Inner Peace in 10 Minutes 900 600 Charlize Lawrence

Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life. – Gregory Maguire, A Lion Among Men

Breathing is something we do almost every second of every day and we give it very little thought. You probably think you are an expert at breathing, having done it for so many years now. I know I did. But look down as you breathe. Do you breathe into your chest, abdomen or both? Are you breathing deeply or are most of your breaths just deep enough to get oxygen without too much trouble? Does walking, climbing stairs, or other mild activities cause you to be out of breath? Does any of it matter since you haven’t keeled over yet?

Experts say that deep breathing that increases oxygen to the cells is a factor in a properly functioning immune system and living a disease-free and energetic life with 90 percent of your body’s energy and approximately 96 percent of your body’s nutritional needs being met by oxygen.

Breathing is the first thing we learn to do when we are born. As a baby we naturally inhale deeply, allowing our whole abdomen and chest to rise and fall. Through the stress and tension of life, most of us forget how to properly breathe, only drawing in shallow breaths that allow us to live but not to thrive. This leaves us in a perpetual state of oxygen deprivation

Here are 8 Breathing Exercises to deepen your breathing and promote healthier cells in just 10 minutes:

#1 – The 6:3:6 Breath

  • Slowly and steadily breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to 6. Hold your breath for a 3-count. Steadily exhale through your mouth as you slowly count to 6. Repeat. If you cannot make it to a 6-count, start at a smaller number and work your way up.

#2 – Breathing Meditation

  • Focus on your breathing during meditation. This will help you to better gauge how deep your breathing is and will assist in quieting the mind. Feel where the breath is coming into your body, is it your nose or your mouth? Is the air coming to one nostril more than the other?

#3 – Mantra Meditation

  • Choose a chant or mantra to say slowly, out loud or silently in your mind, as you deeply inhale through your nose. Repeat the chant as you exhale through your mouth. “Om Mani Padmi Hum” is one of my favorite breathing chants as well as a Tibetan Buddhist blessing of compassion. Here are some maxims that may also work as positive chants –

#4 – Sighing Breath

  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Breathe in through the nose ensuring that the abdomen inflates with enough air to stretch the lungs. Exhale through your mouth with an audible sigh. You will feel an emotional release as your stress evaporates into thin air.

#5 – Morning Breath

  • Take a long and slow inhale through the nose and then exhale quickly and powerfully through the mouth. This is an excellent breathing technique for when you first awaken in the morning. Remember: If you have a bedmate, for heaven’s sake, please brush your teeth first.

#6 – Breath of Fire

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose. Keep your mouth closed and relaxed. Focus on the exhale and let the inhale take care of itself. Take a break every 15 seconds so (or if the room starts spinning!), longer if you’ve been practicing. You will find that this exercise is noisy and you may want to blow your nose first! Bonus points if you do it while standing in line at the grocery store or bank.

#7 – 4-7-8 Breath

  • 4-7-8 breathing consists of placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind your front teeth. All exhaling will be through your mouth around your tongue.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
    • Close your mouth (but leave your tongue in place) and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of 4.
    • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of 8.

#8 – Candle Breath

  • Breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds. Pucker your lips like you might blow out a candle and breathe out very slowly through your mouth. Your exhale should be 2 or 3 times longer than your inhale. For a challenge, see how far away you can make a candle flicker. Pro challenge, try to make a lightbulb flicker.

Once you feel more comfortable with deep breathing, some of these techniques can be done while you walk or do exercises, such as yoga. What an excellent, and free, way to boost your immune system!

Please post a comment about your experience. Got a grumpy friend who needs some stress relief? Why not share this post!