The recent harsh weather gave us all a chance to reflect on our lives without the usual distractions of the TV or the Internet. Lighting candles and cooking on an old camping gas stove meant a mini adventure for the kids, but it all made us realise how much we take things for granted. Now as this is supposed to be a Tai Chi blog the one thing that Tai Chi does not take for granted is breathing, so here is my take on the wonderful health benefits of simple breathing… something we may easily take for granted because we do it all the time and of course the air we breathe is free.
When we are stressed we tend to breathe cautiously taking in just enough air to fill a cup. When we are tense and anxious we tend to hold our breath. If we sit hunched over a PC at work most of the day, especially in a stuffy environment, it reduces both the amount and the quality of air we get into our lungs.
Your lungs are made up of over 600 million air sacs, and can take a lot more than a cupful. You see, if our breathing is too shallow, we are not fully getting rid of the stale gases, and this can lead to all sorts of complications, our immune system is compromised, and we search for some stimulant to boost us when several deep breathes will do wonders simply and naturally. The reason we don’t put any emphasis on breathing is it’s always there, so we do indeed take this powerful resource very much for granted.
OK, let me get a bit more specific and perhaps these scientific facts will encourage you not to take your breathing for granted. Your brain weighs just a fraction of your bodyweight but it requires a massive 25% of the total amount of oxygen we inhale into our bodies. Therefore it stands to reason the more and indeed the better quality air we take in the more energy we have, and the better we feel – simple.
Now, I know it may not be convenient to go through an elaborate Tai Chi sequence of moves when we need a boost, but most of us can do the following. When you get a 10 minute break, leave the room or area where you are working and try and get outside to some fresh air, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, just open a window and get access to good quality air (which we are fortunate to have in most places here in Ireland). Now breathe in deeply through the nose and try and fill the lungs. Try and get the air deep into your abdominal area. It would be like breathing in and let it drop down inside to your lower tummy, let your ribs expand and relax the abdomen. Hold it there just for a few seconds and exhale slowly out through the mouth. Now let your shoulders drop as you exhale, close your eyes if it relaxes you even more. You are re-oxygenating your body.
Here is a great secret that most of the softer arts have in common…Your mind and your breaths are closely related. By controlling your breathing, making it slow and relaxed, you calm the mind and recharge.
Let me know how you get on…
Yours in Tai Chi for health