You may think breathing correctly is human nature. Dr. Belisa Vranich has spent her career convincing people of the opposite. In fact, she says breathing incorrectly is widespread—and has major negative health consequences. Her book, Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health makes that case and provides simple practices to transform your breathing. In this excerpt, she starts to explain why that process is so important.
Oxygenate from the Inside Out
Breathing: at first you might dismiss it as the stuff of pop songs, but once you realize that oxygen is body fuel at a cellular level—it’s how you nourish your brain and muscles—well, it starts making sense. A lot of sense.
And you do know this: you consider buying that face cream that professes to “oxygenate,” you toy with the idea of taking supplements that promise increased oxygenation, and you drink alkaline water that promises to lower your acidity and oxygenate you better. So now consider something you could do just as quickly and more cheaply, merely by adjusting your inhale and exhale just a tad. After all, the goal of all the supplements you take, green juices you drink, and workouts you do is to oxygenate you better. So why not go to the source?
How well you breathe is the best indicator of how healthy you are and how long you’ll live. “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip,” says Dr. Andrew Weil, “it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.”
The opposite is true as well, and even more extreme than you may realize: “All chronic pain, suffering, and disease are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level . . . Proper breathing nourishes the cells of the body with oxygen, and optimizes the functioning of the body on all levels,” states the eminent Dr. Arthur C. Guyton.
So why hasn’t this been evident to everyone? I’ll give you three reasons:
- You didn’t realize you felt so crummy. Succinctly put, until you feel better, you don’t realize how bad you were feeling before. Plus, you can’t really see the damage that’s taking place. For example: when your stomach doesn’t feel good, the upset is pretty obvious in your bowel movements (or lack thereof). With breathing and oxygen, the results are widespread throughout your entire body; however, lack of oxygen isn’t something that cries out for immediate attention or needs a visible bandage or crutch. The good news: the changes will be unquestionably evident after two weeks of doing the breathing exercises that I’m going to outline.
- You got used to Band-Aids (and pills). Medical care usually makes us feel better right away with a pill, a shot, or surgery—but it doesn’t go to the source of the problem. As a society, we’re neither accustomed to nor taught to search for the root of the problem and solve it from there. Take blood pressure, for example: medication is highly effective, whereas breathing exercises are just as effective for lowering it without side effects by going to the source (in this case, over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system). (Nutritious Life Note: If you’re on blood pressure medication, discuss with your MD before stopping or changing any regimen.)
- The change from the healthy breathing of a child to the dysfunctional breathing of an adult could creep in over the years. A bad fright in adolescence, for example, could change one’s breathing from full to shallow. And this Shallow Breathing, reinforced by a hunched posture that is the result of years of sitting at a desk or driving, could become ingrained. A stressful event, followed by a back injury as a young adult, could lead to dysfunctional breathing, which becomes a habit after a few years; then stress and a culture of “gut-sucking” leads to sipping air haltingly, not exhaling completely, and never getting as much oxygen as is needed in order to think clearly and sleep well.
Ready to breathe correctly? Check out Dr. Vranich’s book, Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health, or watch a tutorial, here.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Belisa Vranich and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.