Breathing Your Way to Good Health

Think of your breath as your most intimate friend. Your breath is with you from the moment you're born until you die. In a given day, you take between 20,000 and 30,000 breaths. Most likely, barring any respiratory problems, you're barely aware of your breathing. This state is akin to taking your best friend so for granted that the relationship gets stale and is put at risk. Although the automatic nature of breathing is part of the body's machinery that keeps you alive, having breathing occur automatically isn't necessarily to your advantage; automatic doesn't always mean optimal. In fact, most people's breathing habits are quite poor and to their great disadvantage. Stale air accumulates in their lungs and becomes as unproductive as a stale friendship. Poor breathing is known to cause and increase stress. Conversely, stress shortens your breath and increases your level of anxiety.

HBE*

You can help alleviate stress through the simple practice of yogic breathing. Among other things, breathing loads your blood with oxygen, which, by nourishing and repairing your body's cells, maintains your health at the most desirable level. Shallow breathing, which is common, doesn't oxygenate the ten pints of blood circulating in your arteries and veins very efficiently. Consequently, toxins accumulate in the cells. Before you know it, you feel mentally sluggish and emotionally down, and eventually organs begin to malfunction. Is it any wonder that the breath is the best tool you have to profoundly affect your body and mind?

Bad breath is improved by brushing your teeth regularly and occasionally sucking on a mint. Bad breathing, however, is a bad habit that requires a bit more to change: You must retrain your body through breath awareness.

In Yoga, consciously regulated breathing has three major applications. Use it

✓ In conjunction with the various postures to achieve the deepest possible effect and to prepare the mind for meditation.

✓ As breath control (called pranayama, pronounced prah-nah-yah-mah) to invigorate your vitality.

✓ As a healing method in which you consciously direct the breath to a particular part or organ of the body to remove energetic blockages and facilitate healing. This practice is Yoga's gentle version of acupuncture.

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