On Breathing Normalization
You may have been advised to “Breathe deeply”, or to take a big inhale and release through your mouth
But there’s a paradigm change underway on the subject of breathing.
And it is NOT to take a deep breath.
For one thing the word “deep” as in deep breath is being confused with deep as in “big” volume. Breathing diaphragmatically through the nose, brings the air into the bottom of the lungs, where gravity concentrates the greatest blood supply. That’s what’s meant by deep.
Pranayama ,the study of breathing and breath control is an advanced practice. The breath is the gateway to influencing physiology and it has powerful effects through which it can benefit and at the same time, can do harm. Yet it seems Pranayama, as big breathing, is being taught casually without precaution, to people of all ages as well as all psychological and physical conditions.
The big breath, pervasive in yoga culture, can make a sort of naïve sense in that it equates big breathing with big oxygenation. This is intuitive but false. The science is difficult.
Respiration is intimately bound up with blood chemistry and PH. When I took chemistry, particularly on the topic of PH, I didn’t think “ oh how beautifully and divinely simple”
(I won’t even mention what I thought).
The body exists in a delicate equilibrium and breathing is at the center of it. O2 (oxygen)and CO2 (carbon dioxide) maintain the balance of acids and bases, or PH of the blood. Unless the PH stays within a narrow range (around 7.4) we can’t live at all.
Breathing in Oxygen increases alkalinity. CO2, produced by the body’s metabolism, is acidic. Far from being a waste gas, CO2 is a vital part of the blood’s bicarbonate buffering system.
It is also vital for allowing oxygen release to the tissues. Almost all the oxygen in your blood is bonded tightly to hemoglobin, and it resists letting go unless it’s in an acidic environment, such as that of the metabolizing, CO2 releasing tissues.
This is called the Bohr Effect.
The Bohr Effect is a non-intuitive scientific reality.
If you blow off too much of your carbon dioxide because of higher volume breathing; then you’re slightly reducing the acidity, and thus the oxygenation to your tissues.
Your body will be undersupplied with O2 – as will your brain.
Sub- optimal oxygenation to the brain -not so good
The truth is our breathing rate is controlled to a great degree by the brain stem, which senses CO2 levels. It’s a bit like how a thermostat senses temperature. It’s a setting- not the truth . People who over-breathe, lower the CO2 setting at which their body thinks it needs air. They may even feel they ’re not getting enough, despite the fact that they are over- breathing. Anytime you take in more breath than your metabolism requires you’re also exhaling big and losing too much carbon dioxide.
The thing is, most of us don’t even realize that we’re doing it . Have you ever heard yourself or a partner breathe heavily during sleep, a time when the body should require minimal oxygen? This is called-sleep disordered breathing and is another form of hyperventilation.
Over-breathing or subtle hyperventilation can greatly aggravate anxiety. It also dries your airways, contracts smooth muscle which CO2 relaxes, and can cause or contribute to asthma
What to do? Bring awareness to your breath:
- Is your breath audible, cold, sharp or associated with effort or pronounced movements of your ribcage?
- Does your breathing resemble the breath of an older person, more so than the almost invisible breath of a young healthy being?
- Do you breathe through your mouth habitually because your nose is clogged?
- Do you gulp air when you talk ?
Awareness is the first step towards health
Breathe lighter - from your diaphragm.
take in less volume; relax on exhale
Breathe like the healthy person you want to be.