Breathing. It’s one of the few things that all of us who are interested in the business of living must do. And we do it a lot.
16 breaths per minute, on average. That 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 a day, 8,409,600 a year and 672,768,000 breaths over the course of an average lifetime.
You’d think, with all that practice, that we’d be good at it. But we’re not. When it comes to breathing, most of us are hopeless and it’s making us sick.
How Come We Suck at Breathing?
Our modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it. Stress is a constant factor and a lot of us spend our days busily sitting still. We park up at our desks, hunch over our computers, and take short, sharp sips of breath as we try to navigate a path through our work and our personal lives.
Even worse, we breathe unconsciously. With so much else to think about, something which takes so little effort and absolutely no thought is to be celebrated. We can put it to one side, not worry about it.
Trouble is, proper, healthy breathing requires conscious effort.
Why Does Poor Breathing Contribute to Poor Health?
Most of us only use one third of our natural lung capacity. Instead of using our diaphragms as our main breathing muscle, we rely on the weaker intercostal muscles in our rib cage. The result is that we breathe too shallow and too quick. We’re not drinking in the amount of oxygen that we should and we’re not ridding ourselves of sufficient carbon dioxide.
And so we become subject to ill health. Starved of oxygen, which is vital for the production of energy and for the maintenance of healthy cells, our bodies experience a toxic build-up. This not only reduces our levels of vitality, but also lowers our ability to resist disease. As a result, we become susceptible to a whole host of problems, including fatigue, chest and back pain, sleep disorders and stomach upsets, whilst other conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hypertension can be exacerbated.
If we want to protect ourselves against ill health (and that’s a given for all of us), then proper, conscious breathing is a good place to start. In Part 2 of this article, we look at exactly how we can go about this.