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You can survive without food for months; you can survive without water for days; but you cannot survive without oxygen for more than a few minutes. Every breath you take and every move you make determines the energy you have, and therefore, are able to expend. Most people don’t take in enough oxygen. We normally breathe shallowly, using only the upper portion of the lungs. Shallow breathing can result in rapid breathing and hyperventilation. Most people are completely unaware of their shallow breathing habits. Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and deep breathing are all the same act. It is the type of breathing done by expanding your belly and thereby allowing the diaphragm to move down, creating more room for the lungs to expand, rather than only through the movement of the rib cage. Deep breathing is vital for health and peace of mind. It stimulates the lymphatic system and calms the nerves. Diaphragmatic breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. This is the opposite of the fight or flight response, or adrenal response, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. During the relaxation response, your respiratory rate and heart rate slow, your blood pressure dips, and your pupils contract. What a useful tool that is when you find yourself in an argument, preparing for public speaking, or any time you are stressed out.

Every breath you take converts to energy in the body. All human cells need energy to perform their functions. If your cells need more energy, they use more oxygen, as when you breathe more heavily during exercise. Attention to breathing is one of the most important things you can do to improve you physical health and calm your mind. The air you exhale contains wastes and carbon dioxide. A quick, simple breathing technique to expand your depth of breath is to relax your belly, then deepen your breath by taking slow, full, rhythmic breaths through the nose, allowing the lungs to fill to capacity. Then slowly exhale, emptying all the air from the lungs. If you practice deeper, conscious breathing you will begin to make deeper, unconscious breathing a habit.

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