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
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
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.
HOW TO KEEP THE SYSTEM STRONG
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.
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.
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
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
Practicing to breathe in
tempo can train control and improve
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?