The body can live without food, water, sunshine and shelter for short periods. It cannot live without oxygen over 3-5 minutes. In Chinese medicine, lungs are most closely associated with heaven since air is the element closest to the heavens. Inspiration can mean breathing air in, bringing in more spirit or being moved to create. Life begins with the first breath we take and ends with a final breath.
Different disciplines use breathing to enhance health, performance, awareness and spirituality. Yoga, qigong, meditation and martial arts all use the breath to enhance body, mind and spirit. Relaxation exercises focus on deep breathing and releasing tension with each breath.
Exercise combines movement of muscles, acting like a pump, moving blood more efficiently throughout the body. When exercise is combined with taking good air into the lungs, oxygen saturated blood flows to all parts of the body, bringing good nutrition to the cells and taking away waste.
Oxygen is the chief way of metabolizing fat or converting fat into energy. If you can’t talk while exercising, you have probably switched to doing anaerobic exercise, without oxygen, and are using the energy stores from your muscles. Weight lifting uses primarily anaerobic exercise and develops neuromuscular coordination, improving communication between the nerves and the muscles. Aerobic exercise develops the cardiovascular system improving communication between the heart and the lungs.
Smoking causes narrowing of blood vessels, decreasing blood flow throughout the body and decreases the ability of the small air sacs to move air in and out, eventually decreasing elasticity. The lungs become more rigid, often leading to a widening of the chest. Inhaling particles small enough to get into the lungs competes with oxygen and may get into the blood stream.
Doing deep breathing exercises on a daily basis can increase lung capacity. Doing any sustained exercise which increases breathing will do including walking for at least 8-10 minutes at a pace producing a light sweat and larger inhalations. If you try breathing in for 8-10 seconds through the nose and then breath out through the mouth like you are blowing out candles for 8-10 seconds, this will force more air into more parts of the lung. Putting your arms and hands in different positions may also enhance moving the air into different parts of the lungs.
Try breathing with hands at your side for 2-3 minutes. Then switch to hands across the chest for 2-3 minutes. Then put hands on top of your head for 2-3 minutes, all the while breathing in through your nose for 8-10 seconds and out through you mouth for 8-10 seconds. Over time, you may find your resting breathing rate will decrease, which means you are breathing more efficiently, and you will feel more energetic and able to do more activity with less effort.
A good respiratory system is key for energy production, good brain function and other organ function as well as prevention of disease, including cancer.