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  • Breathe (consciously) for a change

    In my book, Feel the Zest: 89 Ways to Be Fully Energized, I point out that a little effort spent on improving how we breathe can bring us recurring dividends for a lifetime. As I say in the book, you can live without food for a few weeks (not recommended) and without water for a few days (ditto), but deprive yourself of oxygen for just a few short minutes and you may not live to talk about it.

    In the past 24 hours you’ve taken as many as 20,000 breaths. Over a lifetime that translates into inhaling and exhaling about 100 million times. It’s mind blowing to think about so many transactions happening with very little awareness or voluntary effort on our part.

    Oxygen is so vital to our health and well-being that it behooves us to find ways to increase our capacity for taking in that precious element whenever we can. We do ourselves a favor by occasionally intervening in what is ordinarily an autonomic process (think of it as doing a brief manual override) and engaging in a bit of conscious “breathwork”. When we do – it has the effect of enhancing an already beautiful system,

    No one teaches us how to breathe when we are born. We do it naturally. But our modern way of life has a way of taxing that elegantly designed system. A combination of high stress and a largely sedentary lifestyle causes us to breathe in shallow and unhealthy ways. The critical exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen in our lungs gets compromised. The end result is a significant constriction in the flow of oxygen to our brain and other essential organs. It’s no wonder we are energy deficient so much of our day.

    What’s the antidote?

    First: Get out and walk; as often and as briskly as you are able. Your whole being will thank you for increasing the supply of life-giving oxygen. The evidence that walking can improve the quality of your life is growing by the day. Yes, you’ve known it intuitively all along. And it’s nice to get the scientific affirmation that it’s true.

    Other forms of physical activity will also do, of course. Just make sure, regardless of the activity you choose, that you consult your physician to make sure you are not creating any undue risk by engaging in such activity.

    Secondly: Incorporate into your day the practice of active breathing. My favorite resource (book) is “Conscious Breathing” by Gay Hendricks. It’s a comprehensive treatment on the subject and he offers many different methods for improving the way we breathe. A different resource to check out would be one by Dr. Andrew Weil who provides a short tutorial for a simple breathing technique that can be powerful. The link to that video can be found here:

    Thankfully, we never have to give much thought to our breathing, as it rolls along like a bellows, mostly below the threshold of our awareness. Imagine how more robust you might feel if you were to breathe consciously, in ways that utilize more or your lungs.

    An added benefit of improved breathing is that it can help us deal with stress more effectively. If you’ve ever practiced meditation (I’ll be extolling the virtues of meditation in an upcoming blog), you know how the focus on our breath during meditation can bring us a nice state of equanimity. It’s a wonderful place to be.

    Spend some time each day consciously focusing on your breathing, exploring ways to boost your oxygen intake. You’ll be rewarded with better health, vitality and peace!







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