A human being takes an average of 23,000 breaths each day. We do it without a thought, every day, simultaneously accomplishing all the other tasks of modern life. To live is to breathe, but can breathing better help us live better?
Breathing better has been shown to improve circulation, immune function, digestion and cardiovascular health. Conscious breathing also enhances energy and calms the mind. When we deliberately breathe quick, shallow breaths, it is difficult to avoid a feeling of anxiety, no matter how relaxed we felt before. When our mind is anxious our breath quickly becomes shallow. The energy follows the breath, and the breath follows the energy, as the saying goes. So when we partner consciously with our breath, we tend to approach life with a calm, joyful grace that allows us to live more fully in the present moment.
The moment our adorable infant selves speak our first words, we have begun the practice of conscious breathing. The modern human is uniquely blessed with advanced linguistic ability, thanks to the evolvement of an expansive chest cavity that allows the diaphragm, a plunger-shaped, powerhouse of a muscle, to move unencumbered through the intricate intercostal muscles that, along with the ribs, form the chest wall. Our anatomy and cognitive ability give us the potential to express ourselves – not just with words – but with songs, and yawns, and sneezes, and, my personal favorite, laughter.
Poor posture, whether caused by stress, prolonged sitting, inactivity, injury, or other aspects of living a modern life, can create structural obstacles to the free-flowing expression of our breath. As we stengthen and remove obstacles through our movement, we create new pathways to the breath, following it with ease toward our most vibrant self.