Why is Breathing important?
Conscious Breathing, also known as, 'diaphragmatic breathing' or ‘deep breathing’ has been popular in Eastern practices for thousands of years, and more recently studies have shown the practice to have great benefits for us in a number of ways including effectively managing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, encouraging brain growth and even changing gene expression.
Numerous studies indicate the significance of respiration on effecting the nervous system. One such article illustrates how the effects of using specific breathing techniques in participants with Chronic Spinal Chord Injury, compared with a control group, significantly increased respiratory capacity and volume, had associated improved sleep and speech results, and positively impacted cardiovascular regulation.
A Complementary Perspective
From a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective, the breath is referred to as ‘Air Qi’ and is associated most closely with the Lungs. The 'Air Qi' combines with ‘Food Qi’ (the energy we get from the digestion of our food) to become Zong Qi, this is the energy behind the functioning of the Heart and Lungs, both the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Essentially, the Lungs absorb the material essence of universal qi to sustain the body's functions. This process is part of the foundational energy in our body (‘Qi’) that provides fuel to our muscles and tissues, to the organs and systems, as well as supporting our immune system for protection from illness and infection. Ultimately the Lung’s role is that of creating a boundary between our internal and external worlds, and not only in a physical sense.
Here are a few examples of the physical symptoms of poor Lung Qi:
• Shortness of breath (particularly on the out breath)
• Weak or hoarse voice
• Sore, itchy or dry throat
• Daytime sweating
• Frequent cold and flu
• Tight shoulders and neck
Non-physical TCM perspective on Lungs
The Lung, according the TCM theory, is also expressed at the psychological level, as a sense of one’s own personal boundary. A clear internal boundary allows us to know who we are in relation to the external world. It enables us to say ‘yes’ when we want to and ‘no’ when we don’t want. Emotionally, the Lung is nourished by respect – valuing who we are and what we do will have a great impact on the level of respect we feel both internally and externally. I regularly see this in clinic with my clients and work on many of the issues mentioned below.
If you seem to have feelings around or issues with any of the following, there may be a connection to poor Lung Qi:
• Joy (or lack of it)
• Feelings of being part of something bigger (or a disconnection to that feeling
How to Nourish Our Lungs
The best way to increase Lung energy is by breathing. Take in plenty of fresh air, and develop your Lung capacity through exercise such as swimming and conscious deep breathing techniques. It can take as little as a few minutes each day of conscious diaphragmatic breathing, relaxing of the muscles in the shoulders and chest, to effectively build the power of the Lung.
What should I do now?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or just feel like this information resonates with you, I would recommend first trying the Easy Breathing Technique I have included for you below, as well as consider booking a session with a Mind Body Medicine Practitioner/Kinesiologist or Acupuncturist/TCM Practitioner you feel comfortable with.
Easy 5min Calming Breathing Technique:
1. Notice how calm/relaxed you may be feeling right now (taking particular notice of where there may be tension in your body) and rate it out of 10.
2. Sit comfortably with spine straight and legs uncrossed (either on the floor or in a chair).
3. Begin by taking a slow breath in through your nose down into your belly, once the belly feels full, allow your chest to expand to full.
4. Hold the breath in for the count of 1, then slowly exhale out of your nose for the count of 5, deflating the chest first, then the belly.
5. Repeat consciously 10 times.
6. Notice how calm you feel now, and where there may (or may not) be tension in your body. Rate it out of 10 and compare to previous rating.
Resident Mind Body Medicine Practitioner, Integrative Complementary Medicine & Kinesiologist at Kings Cross Health Space.
For bookings call the clinic on: 02 8354 1534
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