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Breath is Life

by: Dena Glazer

The first thing we do in this life is inhale and the last thing we do is exhale. Breath is the basis of life. How we breathe influences everything else in our lives.  

In the Hindu tradition it is said that the length of a person's life is measured by the number of breaths allotted. Once you have breathed that many breaths, you die. If you choose to believe this, learning to slow down your breathing will extend your life.  

Breath is a powerful resource. What happens if you hold your breath? You become dizzy, nauseated, anxious, headachy, and, in extreme cases, pass out, even die. Being deprived of oxygen can impair any or all of your physical and mental functions. If you hyperventilate for a prolonged length of time, you may bring up memories or feelings that are disturbing. Under the supervision of a trained therapist, this kind of breathing can be appropriate.  

On a practical everyday level, it is best to breathe slowly and evenly through your nostrils, filling and emptying your lungs fully with each and every breath. Breathing through your mouth creates a distortion in the shape of your mouth and will dry your throat causing all sorts of problems.  

Most of us breathe very shallowly; breathing into just the upper front lungs, or perhaps into the bottom front and not the upper lung areas. Allow the breath to happen. Some asthmatics breathe into the back lungs, rarely accessing the front portions, creating a large, rounded back and a sunken chest. We have a lot of lung area available to us. The lungs, when flattened out, will cover the surface of a tennis court. Some of us inhale fully but only partially exhale, and some have short inhalations with long exhalations. Both patterns tend to create tension.  

Whatever your breathing patterns, it is a good idea to spend some quiet time in a prone position with a soft support along your spine (which opens your chest) with the forehead slightly higher than the chin, back of the neck long. Just watch your breath. Notice where you are breathing and where you are not breathing. Slow your breath down, breathing evenly and continuously for several minutes or for as long as you want. Then, allowing your breath to return to normal, notice where your breath moves; how you feel. You will be pleasantly surprised.  

Upon standing and resuming your life, be aware of keeping your chest open and breathe as fully as you can, evenly and without effort. Notice when you slump what happens to your breath. By paying attention to our posture and our breath, we help to create a healthy body in which to live a life of quality. Feel your body letting go