Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Breath of life

Breathing is something I take for granted because in most instances, my normal breathing rhythm matches the oxygen requirements of my body. That changes, however, when I'm engaged in rigorous fitness activities - such as doing a set of burpees, taking a run or some other anaerobic activity - that create an oxygen deficit. I'm more aware of my breathing when this happens, because I've gone from unconscious hardly working breathing to conscious working hard breathing.

There's an early morning breathing exercise I sometimes perform to start my day with breathing awareness, and an appreciation for my breath of life. I like to do it lying on my back in bed with my hands folded and resting on my stomach, with an easy view of a clock or watch that measures seconds. The exercise uses diaphragmatic breathing - also known as abdominal breathing, belly breathing or deep breathing - which is the act of breathing deep into your lungs by flexing your diaphragm rather than breathing shallowly by flexing your rib cage.

Begin the first minute with 10 breaths per minute - 3 seconds to inhale and 3 seconds to exhale for one breath. For each subsequent minute, you take one less breath per minute so that's 9 breaths per minute for the second minute, 8 breaths per minute for the third minute and so on, until the tenth minute where you take one breath lasting an entire minute - 30 seconds to inhale and 30 seconds to exhale.

If time is precious and you can't spare 10 minutes, try it for 5 minutes. Begin the first minute just like the 10-minute drill - 10 breaths per minute or 3 seconds to inhale and 3 seconds to exhale for one breath. Then take 2 less breaths for each subsequent minute so that's 8 breaths per minute for the second minute, 6 breaths per minute for the third minute, 4 breaths per minute for the fourth minute and 2 breaths per minute for the final fifth minute.

After you've completed this exercise, don't be surprised if you feel like staying in bed all day and doing more rounds of this exercise. One thing is for sure - it will give you an appreciation of your breath of life.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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