Air: we need it.
We need air to continue onward in our day-to-day lives. On their website, the Canadian government states,
“We breathe in and out about 22,000 times a day. We are powered by breathing. Our lungs fuel us with oxygen, our body’s life-sustaining gas.”
That is a lot of breaths in one day just to keep us going and to keep the world going! However, so many people do not understand breathing and what it takes to breathe. What kind of breathing techniques should we use? Can breathing cause negative impacts? Breathing never gets the attention it deserves, but here, it will take front and center as we dive hard into the concept of breath.
Stress is known to cause terrible breathing problems. College students can find themselves short of breath when exams and projects approach their deadlines. Amazingly, intentional breathing can work wonders for this stress as Harvard Medical School states,
“The act of breathing engages the diaphragm, a strong sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. As you breathe in, the diaphragm drops downward, pulling your lungs with it and pressing against abdominal organs to make room for your lungs to expand as they fill with air. As you breathe out, the diaphragm presses back upward against your lungs, helping to expel carbon dioxide (see figure).”
Breathing is the means to an escape and exit of rough situations.
The University of Michigan put out a breathtaking article claiming that “Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body.”
There are many ways to practice healthy breathing habits that will engage the body in such a way as to regulate the alveolar ventilation occurring in the lungs during the intake phase of a regular breathing cycle. The University of Michigan listed out belly breathing, roll breathing, and morning breathing as just some of the good practices that will make a huge impact on the way each individual breathes.
Think of the last time you had irregular breathing; were you healthy? Health and breathing get tied hand in hand. Similarly, mental, emotional, and physical health also rely on each other. Injuries and pain can cause huge sharp increases in breathing. Sympathetic nervous activity causes this to occur, which tightens the muscles around the rib cage and causes shallow breathing. The body is choking the air out of the lungs in response to pain.
All of this capped off by Michael Ramsay’s piece in The Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing titled “Breathing is Good.” In this essay, Ramsay dives deeply into the complexities of breathing. He directly correlates sickness with breathing irregularities in order to find illnesses, and the essay states that the “respiratory rate is an important vital sign that is frequently neglected yet it is an early warning sign of a potentially critical situation.” Ramsay continues by criticizing the industry for under-utilizing studying breathing mechanics to detect problems.
Breathing is something that all humans take for granted because all humans do it. It is natural to forget about something so subconscious, even when stopping means death. As we go to work, school, or even sit inside, we do not often think about all the air leaving the nostrils and mouth to pollute the air with harmful carbon dioxide (CO2). That is right; we are walking pollution!
According to the National Resources Defense Council, “The average human exhales about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide on an average day.”
2.3 pounds! That adds up quickly. A comparison would be driving a Toyota Prius 12 miles to produce the same amount of carbon dioxide.
So even though breathing is a very important practice for all human beings, people probably think that breathing is helping to create the very problem that will destroy the world as we know it through climate change. However, despite popular misconceptions, our breathing is not creating a lasting impact on the environment.
According to the Mcgill University Office for Science and Society, “All the carbon dioxide we exhale originated in carbon dioxide captured by plants during photosynthesis, [so] we are not disturbing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by breathing.”
Fortunately, breathing does not contribute to any climate change, so go ahead and take those deep breaths, belly breaths, or roll breaths. You can better your health without worrying about negatively affecting the people around you as your breaths equal to the carbon dioxide plants take up in photosynthesis.
Here’s to breathing!
Media by Joshua Heller.