Regular meditators and/or yoga practitioners have been found to have DHEA levels (an age-hormone) of people around 12 years younger. Well now that I have your interest, arn’t you wondering what and why?
It’s likely that this is because people who practise yoga and meditation regularly are able to keep their blood cells healthier due to less breathing than the average person. But what things are likely to affect our breathing in the first place? Surely, breathing is something that comes naturally? Unfortunately, there are many things, particularly in the 21st century that can affect our breathing; for example, an overly acidic diet (meat, processed foods, dairy, sugar), posture, illness, body tension and stress to name but a few.
Oxygen V Carbon Dioxide
In one of my previous newsletters we looked at the controversial issue of levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood when it comes to breathing. It can be hard to get the head around the fact that carbon dioxide is as important as oxygen when most of us tend to think of it as a “poison”, but the one thing we have to remember is that the body/blood will do whatever it needs to do to maintain stability, that is, get back to, “neutral” (the point between acid/alkaline – homeostasis) in order that you can stay alive. A few weeks ago, the British TV series “Doctor Martin, featured a case of a young boy who ended up with osteoporosis due to over-consumption of protein drinks and vitamin D. Because this overload of protein was excessively acid-forming, the blood began to leach calcium from the young boy’s bones to maintain homeostasis. Our Western society generally consumes way too much animal protein and there is a high incidence of osteoporosis.
However, it is believed by many breathing experts that how you breathe and how much you breathe has a far more significant role to play than food when it comes to maintaining homeostasis. Deep breathing – which we are often told is good for us – and/or over-breathing (hyper-ventilation) generally means that carbon dioxide levels are lower and alkalinity increases. This, in turn, affects the oxygen exchange in the blood cells; that is, less oxygen actually makes its way into the blood. In fact, the experts believe that low levels of carbon dioxide in the body are linked to lots of 21st century chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes type 2 and even cancer. Less breathing tends to create slightly more acidity in the body and more carbon dioxide (which generally means more oxygen makes its way into the blood cells). What? you are saying, but I thought I should be more alkaline? Well too much acidity is bad but alkalosis will kill you too! As will an overload of carbon dioxide and as will too much oxygen! Once again, it’s all about the balance.
Yep, it comes back to equilibrium. There is no yin without yang no ha without tha, no masculine without the feminine, no night without day and no movement without the still-point. Far healthier to create blood alkalinity through breath awareness and a fresh food, more plant-based diet. It works both ways. A lighter diet means you begin to breathe less. On the other hand, working towards less breathing will diminish the appetite, reduce cravings for high protein and carb rich foods and immediately benefit your yoga and meditation practice or whatever else it is that you enjoy doing.
NB: As an aside – I have recently become aware of a crazy idea that taking a spoonful of bicarb of soda each day will help “alkalise” the body. Be very careful. There is a big difference between alkalising your stomach contents and alkalising your blood. The stomach is MEANT to contain acid and destroying the flora balance in here could leave you vulnerable to many bugs and illnesses.
Tips to turn your breathing around
- Lie down and observe any chronic tension in your body particularly around the navel area. The belly needs to be soft in order that the diaphragm engages because this is the main muscle of breathing. Chronically tight (rectus) abs that cannot be relaxed are a serious issue when it comes to long term health. Want nice, fresh-looking skin? Embrace your jelly belly more often than not and never confuse tension and tightness with strength. Most overly muscular and tight-bodied people I have met could be blown over with a slight gust of wind!
- Always breathe through your nose (particularly when you inhale). Always.
- Eat more alkaline forming foods (fresh fruit and veg).
- Eat less acid-forming foods – processed, meat, bread, grains, dairy.
- Sit or lie in silence paying attention to the breath.
- Be mindful. Notice when you are busy or anxious that tension creeps in to your tummy and you hold it tighter. This is the number one factor in what changes your ability to breathe efficiently. Chronic tension or low level “fight or flight” is exhausting – a complete waste of energy. It also depletes your adrenals, puts pressure on the nervous system and inhibits your body’s ability to self-heal.
- Watch your posture. Sit and stand up straight – avoid the couch and silly shoes.
- Practise yoga & meditation.
- Let go of perfectionism.
- Don’t sit if you can stand.
- Don’t stand if you can move…
- Trust me when I tell you that nothing really bad will happen if you don’t vacuum today.
For a more thorough scientific view-point, check out http://www.normalbreathing.com/CO2-blood-pH-respiratory-alkalosis.php#.U…