The lungs are where gas exchange takes place in our body. We breathe air in and exhale waste products and toxins in the form of gases and water vapour.
There’s that stuff again – WATER! It’s incredible how important water is to our body functions! It’s REALLY important for our lungs as they are 90% water. A litre of water is required inside our lungs in order for gas exchange to take place properly. And – when we’re dehydrated, histamine levels go up … a lot of asthma and allergies could be solved by simply being properly hydrated. Imagine that! It’s an almost-free health cure all!
Breathing is under the control of our autonomic nervous system – it’s a vital function and luckily therefore not something we have to do consciously. However, the autonomic nervous system also controls our stress response so breathing changes when we’re stressed (it becomes shallow and rapid). In Chinese medicine’s Law of Five Elements, the lungs are Metal which is melted by Fire (ie, buzzing, stressing, always on the go).
In this picture, the diaphragm is labelled. The diaphragm is a large flat wall of muscle between our lungs and our digestive organs. It literally cross-sections our body from front to back and side to side. It keeps our digestive organs in place, has a role in pushing food down into our stomachs and along the intestines. Our food tube goes through it. It’s also the best muscle for breathing – and yet lots of us hardly use it. It becomes weak through lack of use and then it doesn’t hold down the stomach and this can cause a hiatus hernia. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, you could well help them without drugs by exercising and strengthening your diaphragm.
So, one of the best ways to quickly de-stress and to improve digestion, is to breathe with your diaphragm (instead of your chest muscles or shoulders). It induces an instant sense of peace and relaxation … and massages your digestive organs as well as keeping them in place. Here’s how to belly breathe:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the bed or floor
- Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest
- Take a deep breath and observe how your hands rise and fall
- Take another breath – this time focus on only allowing the hand on your belly to rise and fall
- Keep practising – it takes practice to get this right. You’ll be re-programming your brain and diaphragm to breathe more efficiently.
- As you breathe in, allow your belly to inflate and push up, while keeping your chest absolutely still. You’re now using your diaphragm to breathe.
- Once you’ve mastered this, you can use it anywhere, anytime you feel stressed.
Practising belly breathing for at least ten breaths every day will improve gas exchange (oxygen in, toxins out), your digestion AND relaxation.
Your homework for Step 3:
- Keep watering that pot plant! See Step 1. By now, you could have increased your water intake by two glasses per day and be well on the way to better hydration and therefore better health.
- Practise belly breathing for a minute or two – at least once per day.
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