I guided Greg, my husband, through 10 reps of an exercise. “Now, rest and breathe.”
He took two shallow breaths and said, “What’s next?”
“No. Really breathe. Fill your lungs and slowly empty them. Don’t treat breathing like it’s just one more thing to get through quickly. Your body needs oxygen. Every cell in your body needs oxygen.”
“That’s what they kept telling me at physical therapy.”
“See? I didn’t make it up.”
Anyone who’s ever taken a Lamaze class knows the importance of breathing. (Am I dating myself? Do they even teach Lamaze to pregnant women anymore?) Deep breathing while doing strenuous physical tasks, like giving birth or lifting weights, boosts your energy and helps lessen pain. The worst thing you can do while exerting yourself or while experiencing severe pain is to hold your breath. (Okay, you do hold your breath while bearing down to give birth; but that’s after taking a few deep breaths to prepare.)
Deep breathing also helps you diffuse intense emotions, such as panic. When you are upset, breathe slowly and deeply to give your body more oxygen, and your heart will slow down and stop pounding.
When your blood is fully oxygenated, it speeds nutrients and vitamins to your cells, discards wastes promptly, and facilitates your immune system. Deep breathing can also lower your blood pressure.
Breathing helps you maintain your focus, and it also helps deepen your enjoyment. When you’re outside enjoying nature, don’t you intuitively take deep breaths? Breathing activates your endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones and neurotransmitters. If you want to be happy, breathe all the time.
Don’t underestimate the simple act of breathing. It’s essential for your well-being.