Priority #5


Breathe Deep & Exhale With Force Often


Living Primal means practicing priorities that are essential and fundamental to our health and longevity. Breathing definitely falls into that category. Not only does taking in air provide our body with needed fuel, but the process itself clarifies posture, moves joints, and removes toxins from our body. Around 1800 gallons of blood are moved through the lungs each day, (with exercise, more), oxygenated, then travel 12,000 miles in the circulatory system throughout the entire body. That is a lot of fluid traveling a lot of distance. Ensuring all systems are functioning to their optimal capacities is vital and it begins with breathing.


Breathing is the process of ingesting into and exhaling air out of the lungs. Oxygen is transferred into the blood, pulled into the heart, which pumps it throughout the body via the circulatory system. Cells receive oxygenated blood, conduct cellular respiration and biochemical reactions that sustain life. De-oxygenated blood then collects cellular debris and carbon dioxide that is moved back to the lungs and expelled. So, as you can see, breathing is a continual and essential process of providing nutrients and removing waste.


What is important to us and why it is a Priority is that in a relaxed state, humans only take in roughly 10%-15% of their maximal lung capacity. It is only during times of exercise or exertion that the number increases. It is truly important to experience ingesting more air and challenging lung capacity on a regular basis and expel it with force. Maintaining the ability to orchestrate these movements, and exercise the muscles and joints involved, is essential for quality of life and to provide the body with one of its primary sources of fuel.


Inflate ~ Expand ~ Deliver ~ Expel


The Mechanics … Who’s Involved?

The diaphragm is an upside down dome that contracts by descending/flattening, creating a vacuum so air can rush into the lungs. Tiny balloon-like sacs called alveoli at the end of the lungs are the exchange sites for gas transfer: oxygen pulled from air and transferred to blood, carbon dioxide pulled from blood back into the lungs for expiration.

The heart contracts to:

-         draw blood toward it

-         push blood that was already there outward through arteries to cells

-         pull blood back from cells back to the heart

-         ship blood back to the lungs for release of CO2  and receive more oxygen.

It is a complete circle that takes place 24 hrs a day for your entire life. How cool is that?


In order for this process to happen, the ribs have to expand upward and outward to allow for increased lung volume and muscles of the abdomen have to contract to force air out. Average lung capacity is 6 liters for men, 4.2 for women. Of that, 0.5 liters is left in the lungs as residual or tidal volume. Of course, this is an average and a larger woman would have a larger lung capacity than a small man.




Start your day with movement

I’m not a fan of grabbing a cup of coffee, sitting, and reading the newspaper first thing in the morning. After a good nights rest, and a full day ahead of you, the most important thing is to get the body moving and more importantly, oxygenate tissue.  An early morning walk gets all systems functioning and is a great opportunity to take in a bunch of air and push it out. Moving the arms through their full ranges of motion is also beneficial.



Deep Breathing

Taking the time to breathe as deep as you can a few separate times a day reminds you just how little of your lungs you actually use but the benefits are far reaching. Focus on full expansion of the abdominal, rib cage, and back regions for full inflation. Ribs, their cartilage, intercostal muscles, the diaphragm, abdominal muscles, and even organs such as the mouth, nose, nostrils, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli all get involved and boost their awareness. Think of it as a good stretch for the internal stuff.

In addition, deep breathing is a form of relaxation, and when practiced regularly, lead to the relief or prevention of symptoms commonly associated with stress, which may include high blood pressure, headaches, stomach conditions, depression, anxiety, and others.


Forced Exhalation

Breathing in is one thing, but having the ability to force air out is another. It really is exercise involving primarily the abdominal muscles: rectus abdominus, internal/external obliques, transverse abdominus, and the internal/external intercostal muscles between the ribs. Together they contract to force air out of the lungs. Focus on using these ‘lower’ muscles instead of trying to expel air from the upper thoracic ‘upper’ lung area is what you are after.


Other Breathing Methods


Pranayama, or Yoga Breathing is a controlled/meditative form of breathing that is believed the gateway to vital energy in the body.


Diaphragmatic Breathing, sometimes called abdominal breathing, is done by contracting the diaphragm, by focusing on expansion of the lower torso rather than the upper/rib/lung torso region. Breathing high tends to be shallower.

Many consider it a remedy or therapy to hyperventilation, anxiety, and stuttering.


Sprinting for as little as 10-30 seconds is great training for the entire cardiopulmonary system, not to mention your body. If you are not used to sprinting, and haven’t done it since you were chased by the neighbors dog, start out slowly, only do a few, and walk a couple of minutes before doing the next. Eventually, head to the nearby school track with a stopwatch and check what your 100m time is just to mark improvement the next time you head out.


Musical wind instruments provide a way to ingest air rhythmically and exhale with control…and in some cases power and force. (words from a former lead trumpet player!)


Practicing to breathe in tempo can train control and improve lung capacity.

In for 4 out for 4. I like to do this when walking as a pace setter.


Take air in through the nostrils or even one nostril and then out through the mouth.


Coughing, although usually associated with sickness, can be a form of exercise utilizing instant contraction of the abs and diaphragm.


Want to know more about the Lungs?