Breathing is a natural state, from the moment we’re born we breathe and from that point until we depart this mortal coil we breathe in and out more than 400 million times. So breathing and breathing well is fairly important.

Our lungs are the organs that distinguish the most highly developed forms of life and it is special as it is the only organ that can be controlled by will. All other organs are only moved by our Autonomic Nervous System. Without a constant supply of oxygen for our cells, we could not live, even out capacity for thinking relies on the relationship between the lungs and the brain. The brain demands lots of oxygen, if you weigh 72kg your brain probably weigh 1.5 kg or roughly 2% of your bodyweight. Yet the brain requires 25% of your total oxygen intake, compared to 12% used by the kidneys and the tiny 7% used by the heart. All fatigue is caused by oxygen deficiency in the cells.

As a therapist I have found that often people need to be taught how to breathe. I can hear many of you from here, “Teach people how to breathe, I thought we just did it naturally?”

Yes, you do, your ANS or Autonomic Nervous System will keep you breathing at all costs, the urge to breathe is innate, however many people that have come to me as clients are not breathing well. Many of my clients are breathing in what those who are familiar with body work, fitness, or eastern medicine or yoga practices will tell you is actually causing their energy levels to drop and their body to break down.

Watch a baby breathe as it sleeps, its little tummy moving in and out with each breath, tiny nostrils flaring slightly as the air moves through them. Perfect! Now watch an adult sleep, yes they’re breathing more deeply, however where is the breath going? Is there abdomen moving in and out, or is their chest, or perhaps even their upper chest area? This is what I am talking about and worse still we find that when these people are awake their shallow breathing habits are even more pronounced.

How do these poor breathing habits affect your body and your mind? Let’s look at the physiology first. When you breath in a shallow manner only using your chest or worse still your upper chest, this is known as crisis breathing, because your body breathes like this when you are stressed or in a panic. By breathing like this constantly you are keeping your body in a state of crisis. This type of breathing activates the adrenal gland (your fight or flight mechanism) and your body is constantly bombarded by adrenaline, noradrenaline and other hormones and enzymes used to get you out of danger.

One of the things adrenalin does is tell your body to channel blood away from your internal organs (you don’t need them to run) and move more blood into limbs and heart so that you have the strength to run or fight you way out of whatever danger your stress levels are telling your body you are in. So if this keeps up over time several things happen:


  • your internal organs are left high and dry without good circulation and oxygenation which can lead to poor health
  • your heart is receiving the message to pump harder so get you out of danger and first of all you will experience palpitations and feelings of anxiety and breathlessness and then your heart will begin to get tired, the muscles have been overworked and become damaged
  • your muscles which are in a state of flight or fight also become twitchy and then tired and you feel exhausted all the time
  • your mind responding to this constant state of stress begins to feel anxious on a constant basis and you get jumpy and even phobic over time.


Not a very nice place to be, and this kind of thing often leads to genuine ill health and disease as your body begins to break down under the onslaught of the constant state of stress.

What can we do to change this? Well remember at the beginning of this article I stated that the lungs were unique organs in the body because they were capable of being regulated by will? There’s your answer. By regulating our breathing and teaching ourselves new breathing habits we can change our health, energy levels and regain control over our mind and emotions.

Here are a few ideas to get your started:


  • take up Yoga, there are many styles of Yoga and you are sure to find one that suits you. Yoga has at its very core the science of breathing which is called ‘Pranayama.’ Most eastern medicine and exercise techniques have breath regulation as their base, so find someone qualified to teach one of the eastern practices of exercise like Yoga and enrol in classes in your area. Great side effects of these practices is that your body will not only calm down, but you will develop core strength and a toned, limber body as well.
  • take up meditation, again most meditation practices are centred around the breath, there are medically proven health benefits to meditation that include better heart health, stress reduction, lowering of blood pressure and better focus.
  • try a Whole Body Exercise Vibrational Platform, increases lung function and clinically proven to increase muscle strength, improve bone density and encourage circulation to the whole body these machines make exercising so easy, especially if you are just starting out again. Used in rehabilitation clinics, space agencies to get their astronauts in top shape again after long terms in space, and fitness centres to boost the performance of workouts they are now available for the home gym.
  • exercise in any form also encourages good breathing, especially if you start out with a personal trainer who can show you how to breathe during each exercise. Even a good walk every day will help.

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