My title today seems redundant. However, how many times do we find ourselves forgetting to breathe? Holding our breath. Remember the saying: now, take a deep breath!
I was watching an episode of Call the Midwife last night (yes I love this series), and was struck by the scene where a baby is born but having difficulty breathing. The mother who just gave birth in her home is worried of course. While the ambulance is on the way, the midwife answers the mother’s questions and mentions many things that could be happening, including “it could be a heart problem.” “And even so,” she adds to reassure the mother, “sometimes, as the baby starts to breathe and more oxygen reaches the heart, the heart starts to heal itself.”
Now, is this really happening for this baby? We do not know, the story does not say. However, the comment points to the enduring truth: every moment we are alive, our body heals itself. It sometimes needs help, but it has the greatest capacity for healing. To support the body’s natural capacity for healing, there are three basic ingredients: proper nutrition, good and long sleep, and oxygen intake and absorbtion.
Deep and slow breathing, especially the exhale part of the breath, has shown to slow the heart rate and lower the blood pressure. Instead of using oxygen at a rapid pace and burdening the heart to work harder, the heart can slow down and relax, and more oxygen is suddenly available. This helps to expel carbon dioxide from the lungs and body and increase the air space (and oxygen) the lungs can inhale next. Repeating it a few time will also calm the mind and lower the stress response. The heart starts to relax, does not need as much oxygen, and the body has suddenly more in store to repair and heal itself. How amazing. Slowing down the heart and increasing the oxygen intake will also relieve some anxiety, as our brain is better nourished with oxygen.
Now, returning to our breath. Some of us experience a shallow breathing pattern, where we tend to hold our breath. Over a short time, this would deprive our body, lungs, and heart of the optimal capacity to absorb oxygen at every moment of life. It may also contribute to higher heart rate. Perhaps we have learned good breathing exercises. Perhaps last week, or earlier in the day or a few minutes ago, we have taken one deep breath.
Repeating three times the exhale of a long complete breath, and doing this session a few times a day may have tremendous health benefits over time.
Let’s remember that we need to continue taking deep breaths over and over again. Not only once in a while. It requires doing it and remembering to do it. It may require slowing down what we are doing now and making a small lifestyle change, moment after moment. We do not need to burden ourselves with a long TO DO list to heal and feel better. We can just be in the nowness, moment after moment. Then we can rejoice: we are helping our body to heal itself, and we can feel ourselves being in the moment, fully alive.