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Benefits of Deep Breathing

Posted Jan 05 2010 6:00am
It's one of the easiest and best things we can do, especially those recovering from a toxic exposure. It involves the "simple" act of breathing.

The benefits of deep breathing are numerous. DHEA rises, cortisol decreases, problem-solving abilities increase, and much more. One of the best explanations I've read comes from the website Women to Women and is written by OB/GYN doctor Marcelle Pick.

Breathing serves as the pump for the lymphatic system, just as the heart serves the circulatory system. Your cells must have oxygen to survive moment to moment. To thrive, they rely on a complex exchange between the circulatory system and the lymphatic system.

Blood flow carries nutrients and ample amounts of oxygen into the capillaries, while a healthy lymphatic system carries away destructive toxins. Proper breathing is the moderator of this exchange.

We don’t often think about our lymph nodes unless we hear about someone with cancer, which is surprising, because we have twice as much lymphatic fluid as blood in our bodies.

So what is the lymphatic system? It could be likened to the body’s sewer system. Lymph vessels form a drainage system throughout the body. Our cells swim in an ocean of lymphatic fluid that carries away the detritus of our immune system, including dead white blood cells, unused plasma protein and toxins.

It works like this: blood is pumped around the body by the heart, transporting nutrients and oxygen to the cells. Once the cells have absorbed what they need, they excrete debris and toxins, which then get flushed and deactivated by lymphatic fluid.

The lymph fluid then drains into the circulatory system through two ducts at the base of your neck (the thoracic duct), and becomes part of the blood and plasma that pass through the kidneys and liver. But unlike your circulatory system, your lymph system does not have a built-in pump. It relies on the act of breathing and bodily movement to move all that waste fluid around.

The consequence of a sluggish lymphatic system is that you cannot detoxify properly. And if you aren’t breathing deeply or moving regularly, chances are your lymph fluid is not flowing as well as it could. As you can well imagine, this can lead to health concerns over time, including weight gain, muscle loss, high blood pressure, fatigue, and inflammation.

But the great news is that you can improve your lymph system cleansing by learning to practice deep breathing. The expansion and contraction of the diaphragm actually stimulates your lymphatic system and massages your internal organs, helping the body rid itself of toxins, and leaving more room in the cells for an optimal exchange of oxygen.

* * * * * *
One of our doctors suggested we purchase a computer breathing program. (Like most everything we've tried, it took me weeks to open the box. Anything new is intimidating.) Not long ago, our 10-year-old son Colin wrote about the program.

"My family and I always have to do a thing that is good for your lungs, it's called breathing. Breathing is a thing that one of our doctors showed us he said that if you do this every day our breathing and temper will get way better.

What it shows you is how you're doing with your breathing and you can even play games, and green is really good. If you have 100 green it means that you are doing really well, blue is medium and red is really bad. Also, we're doing it every day, but last night I had a bad dream, and I asked my mom if I should do breathing because she was up at that time, and she said that's a great idea."

It's called "heart breathing." The idea is to picture yourself breathing from your heart. A quick lesson in this coherence technique can be seen here.

I attended a telephone coaching session recently. The instructor, who has worked with numerous professional athletes, reminded us repeatedly, "Deep breathing works best when there is a positive thought with it." Immediately I thought of Philippians 4:8.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

With such wisdom, maybe I can score 100 green.
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