Most people who receive my newsletter care a lot about their health. And typically we think of good health as being mostly about eating right and getting sufficient exercise.
And while “shoulding” on ourselves for not exercising more is close to the universal self-judgment, we can go a lifetime without exercising– though it may be shorter and feel considerably less vital.
People obsess most about what food they’re eating, or shouldn’t be eating, but humans can go 30 days or more without food at all.
A more complete approach to healthfulness also includes sleep and hydration habits. However–curiously, considering we can only go 10 days without sleep and 4 days without water—attention to proper hydration and sleep are typically farther down our good health priority list then diet and exercise.
Remarkably, most people put ZERO attention on the most important element of their health: oxygen.
Humans can live for only 3-4 minutes without oxygen, yet very few people put conscious attention on their relationship with this most vital of all elements to life.
The typical resting breath pattern of a modern human is shallow and fairly rapid, with the inhalation primarily into the upper areas of the lungs. Stress, anxiety, and depression only exacerbate this pattern, and while exercise is good for working the lungs, it takes conscious attention to breathe into the mid and lower lung areas to maximize lung capacity and oxygenation of the blood.
So, while the notion of pausing to take a deep breath is always a good idea to de-stress and bring yourself to greater presence, an even better idea would be to give a complete exhale first! Because if you don’t fully exhale all the carbon dioxide from your lower lungs, there’s no room for you to really take a deep inhale of fresh oxygen.
Try this: Take a moment here to notice how you’re normally breathing. Notice particularly how much exhale there is still left when you typically begin to inhale. And now, on your next breath, exhale more, even more, maybe even squeezing your belly a little bit to get the last of the old breath out. Maybe even pause for a second at the bottom of the outbreath. Then slowly and evenly breathe into your lower belly before filling your upper lungs. Now pause again for a moment at the top of the in-breath, noticing what it’s like to really feel the fullness of your lungs.
Do that three times and notice if maybe the light seems a little brighter, or your brain feels a little clearer, or your body feels a little more energized.
So from now on, don’t ever take a deep breath…until you give a complete exhale first.