Our Breath of Life

I had to get up this morning and go get the oil changed in the car. Not always my most favorite thing to do but notice I said I had to. My father always taught us kids that was one of the most important things about owning a car. Keep the oil changed and the car will last much longer. Keeping the oil changed and clean reminds me of how we breathe.

Most of us wake up every morning and get busy doing the morning routine without giving one thought to how we are breathing. We are living our lives without thinking about one of the most important aspects that keeps us healthy.

woman holding a cup of coffee by the window


Did you ever realize we all take about 20,000 breaths a day, and this is done without any thought about it.  This yields incredible power over our health because it supplies our body with oxygen and removes the excess carbon dioxide that keeps us alive.  But, when we harness our breathing correctly, it can do far more than just supply our cells with oxygen.  The way we breathe sends messages to our body that affect our mood, stress levels and even our immune systems.

Research is showing that controlled breathing can influence your health for the better. 

We only need to learn how to use it.  Breathing is actually a voluntary and an involuntary process like blood flow or digestion.  We cannot, however, alter the breathing process as with the flow of your blood or your digestive process.  You can control the speed, the depth and whether you breathe through your mouth or nose.  By changing the way we breathe, we will also change important aspects of our health.

This is the exact opposite as the “fight-or-flight” response the body has, called the relaxation response.  Controlling your breathing may trigger this relaxation response.  It activates the parasympathetic nervous system that may slow down your heart rate and digestion while helping you to feel calm.  With this response, you actually change the expression of the genes for the better.

Controlled breathing is an ancient technique that is backed by modern research and known as pranayama or the practice of yoga.  Breath meditations have been used for a long time in Buddhism as a way to help reach enlightenment.  Breathing helps to relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, according to a BMC journal study.  Breathing exercises help to balance the autonomic nervous system and influence psychologic and stress-related disorders through increased parasympathetic drive, calming of stress response systems, neuroendocrine release of hormones and thalamic generators.

Benefits of controlled breathing include lowered blood pressure, brain growth and other remarkable benefits. 

Research suggests that harnessing the timing and depth of your breath may lead to lowered blood pressure and heart rate, including lowering blood pressure in those with hypertension, an increase in brain size when used along with meditation and immune support, by altering the expression of genes involved in immune function.  We breathe through our mouth or nose but it is far preferable to breath through your nose.  Pilates and meditative methods tend to focus on taking big, deep breaths, Patrick McKeown, a teacher of the Buteyko Breathing Method, suggests this is actually the opposite of what you should do.  This method helps to reverse health problems associated with improper breathing and the most common, which are over breathing and mouth breathing.

Deep mouth breathing tends to make you feel light-headed due to eliminating too much CO2 from your lungs and causes your blood vessels to constrict.  The heavier you breath, the less oxygen you actually deliver throughout your body.  Even though you get rid of excess CO2, it is important to maintain a certain amount of it in your lungs.  We need to break the negative feedback by breathing through our nose and breathing less.  McKeown and his Buteyko Breathing Method can be used to learn how to achieve proper breathing through proper breathing exercises.

Each day is a new gift and I am going to try to focus more on how I treat my body and breathe better for it.

Dr Fredda Branyon