Blog #99 Breath, Air, and Keeping Lungs Strong
Summer is arriving, bringing warm weather, increased humidity and more air pollution. The recent dip in air pollution due to much less travel, manufacturing and commerce in the last few months with the onset of coronavirus will quickly diminish and then disappear when the economy becomes more active again. Actually, the air, water and soil pollution will likely become worse than before due to the United States governmental moves to reverse 98 environmental protections established prior to 2016 (see New York Times, June 2, 2019, where each protection is listed). Since our government is not currently looking out for our best interests, but rather supporting industry, we will have to look out for ourselves and for each other. Following are some suggestions and ideas for healthy breathing and strong lungs.
Optimal breathing. Abdominal breathing allows us to bring more oxygen into the lungs and therefore into each cell of the body than does chest breathing. Abdominal breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing) comes naturally to some people, but takes practice for many. It usually is easiest to learn to breathe this way lying supine, then when seated, and finally while standing and moving. You will know that you are breathing diaphragmatically when you place one hand across the upper chest and the other across the lower abdomen, and the upper hand moves only minimally, while the lower hand moves noticeably. Diaphragmatic breathing also involves muscles in the back and on the sides of the lower to mid-abdomen. With continued practice, you will usually also be able to feel muscles expanding and contracting when you place your hands on these areas of your body.
Breathing exercises. There are virtually an unlimited number of breathing exercises, including those for detoxification, increased oxygenation, calming the mind, elevating the mood, improving digestion and elimination, increasing energy level, improving memory and intellect and improving and deepening sleep. One very simple one is a “triangle” in which each of three parts of respiration is maintained for seven seconds (if that length of time is uncomfortable, it can, of course, be changed). The three parts are: inhalation through the nose for seven seconds, hold in for seven seconds, and exhalation through the mouth for seven seconds. Unless there is irreparable damage done to the lungs or related musculature or other internal structures, people can learn to greatly increase their vital capacity with various breathing exercises, when done consistently, on a daily basis, over time.
Calming mind and emotions. Mental tension will increase muscular tension, which decreases the lungs’ vital capacity and also interferes with the body’s utilization of oxygen. Prolonged negative emotions, such as fear, guilt, anger, worry and grief interfere with internal organ function and cellular biochemistry, creating endocrine and other imbalances in the body, suppressing the immune system and increasing the likelihood of degenerative and acute disease. Treating oneself with loving consideration, learning to be non-judgmentally aware of one’s thoughts and emotions as well as one’s level of structural relaxation will help enhance health, vitality, and mental acuity. One safe and effective meditation is an inner smile, which involves smiling with one’s eyes, directing the smiling feeing inside oneself, allowing a half-smile to happen with the mouth, closing the eyes, and breathing peacefully three times before opening the eyes again.
Fresh air and sunlight. Fresh outdoor air is important for health. Although city air is not particularly clean, it is still usually better than air in closed indoor spaces. If affordable, a good air purifier will help improve the quality of indoor air. Except when a person has skin cancer, regular time in sunlight is vital for good health, since it is energizing and a good source of Vitamin D. Standing on the earth is also revitalizing, even if shoes are worn. Before the discovery of the appropriate medications, lots of rest, sunlight, fresh air, and wholesome food was the treatment of choice for tuberculosis, a serious respiratory infection, which has now been largely eliminated. Covid-19 also is an infection that primarily affects the lungs. When out of doors, put on masks when within six feet of others or if suffering from symptoms which might be Covid-19. Otherwise, let the fresh air and sunlight in.
Looking out for others. During this pandemic, certain suggestions and rules are in place to protect oneself and others. When these rules are violated, i.e. not washing hands with soap and water sufficiently, not wearing masks when required by law or requested by businesses or vulnerable individuals, not isolating oneself for 10 days or more after close contact with someone known to have Covid-19, etc., people may endanger people in their communities with viral spread. Unless you are a first responder in a hospital setting, masks are worn primarily to protect others. Hand washing protects everyone, as does quarantining when appropriate. When others are harmed due to lack of hand washing, mask wearing, or avoiding the company if others when ill, the offending individual may feel conscious or subconscious guilt. These feelings, in turn, may result in disturbed emotions and thoughts as well as physical tension, all of which can compromise breathing.
This blog could go on, but I think this is enough for one reading. I wish you good health and inner peace in these challenging times.
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