Your Breath Is A Potent Medicine:

by Carole Bourne

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“The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throats”

Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu

Hello sweet friend, please know the breath is your private inner medicine.  In fact, the breath could easily be the most potent inner medicine you have. She is your humble healing servant, ready and waiting for your every request.

Ask her and she will respond. In an instant she can slow and deepen.  Create more space for your organs. Move energy more efficiently through you.  Encourage tension to dissolve. Shift heavy emotions. Slow a busy mind.  Detox your body.

Following are some interesting facts about the breath drawn from all the tai chi, yoga, huna, qi gong, pranayama and other energy classes I have taken over the past 20 years.

Stuff to know about your breathing:

  • Your breath is the first thing to respond in your body: Your breath will respond and adjust according to what you are thinking, feeling, observing, hearing, tasting, touching, sensing or experiencing at the time. It is intimately connected to your physical, emotional and spiritual state.
  • Check the depth of your inhales: Notice where the end of your inhales stop and rest. Are they habitually limited? Do they finish in the throat, upper chest or flow a little deeper into the ribs or even deeper into your belly.  A full nourishing inhale should fill your lungs, expand your ribs and open your abdomen.   Shoulder tension and muscular tightness around the ribs often limits your breath. Encourage a slightly longer exhale to invite a deeper inhale.
  • Move on and let it go with a releasing exhale: A longer exhale in times of stress can help to put a healthy distance between you and the outside world.  Create some breathing space if you like. Your exhales when used as medicine can help move any stresses out and away from your energy fields.  Pause often and let go of the stress with a cleansing sigh and releasing exhale.
  • 70% of waste is eliminated through your lungs: It wasn’t until I started reading The Tao of Natural Breathing by Dennis Lewis that I learnt up to 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated via our lungs and the rest through the urine, skin and faeces.  When the efficiency of our lungs is reduced due to poor breathing less oxygen is available to our cells, it slows down the flow of blood which carries wastes from the kidneys and lungs. Our lymphatic system which fights off viral and bacterial invaders is weakened along with a slower digestive process.
  • Your breathing habits influence the flow of your day: Jerky, shallow, fast, constricted or tight breathing reflects that your days are in a constant stressed state.  You tend to overreact to that which is happening around you and waste your precious energy unnecessarily.  Your days are rushed. You have forgotten how to pause and receive.
  • Quality breathing can release fear, anger and sadness: Your breath will become disturbed when experiencing stressful emotions.  To prevent these unwanted emotions from being pushed down and trapped in your body, simply breathe into your organs.  When I studied Qi Gong we were taught to breathe into our organs.  This, I must say was a life changing moment for me.  I received enormous benefits almost immediately.  Breathe into your lungs to move sadness and grief.  Breathe into your kidneys to move fear.  Breathe into your liver to move anger.  Breathe into your heart to open yourself up to more loving experiences.
  • Your nose is for breathing and the mouth for eating: Whether I’m doing yoga, tai chi or qi gong all my teachers have recommended to breathe in and out through the nose.  Nose breathing corrects the balance of oxygen and dioxide in our blood.
  • Your breath activates your nervous system: When the sympathetic nervous system is activated you are living life with the “accelerator” on full throttle.  You are in “fight or flight” mode and constantly releasing stress hormones into your body.  On the flip side, the parasympathetic nervous system is like putting the “brake on” to life. To activate your parasympathetic nervous system focus on your breath.  Close your eyes and allow your breath to slow, deepen and widen.
  • Notice the pause after each exhale: There is a very natural pause after each of your exhales.  Don’t rush into your next inhale, simply slow the breath, connect to the pause  and receive the healing stillness.
  • Your body can’t relax if your mind and breath are racing: Your thoughts are directly linked to the quality of your breathing.  Busy, overactive thinking often means short, shallow and quick breathes.  When you slow your thoughts the body will soon follow.
  • A conscious exhale removes toxins from your body: Spending longer on your exhale through your nose will remove old, stuck or stagnant carbon dioxide from the very bottom of your lungs, along with toxic bi-products the body has produced.
  • Experience a yogic breath: Anyone who practices yoga with be familiar with the 3 main stages of yogic breathing.  Lying comfortably on your back or sitting up in a chair inhale.  Firstly notice your collar bones and upper part of your chest expand, then follow the inhale down by placing a hand on either side of your ribs and feel them expand outwards away from the spine.  Lastly place your hands gently on your belly/abdomen area and notice the rise and fall of your tummy
  • Squeezing the tummy in on the inhale limits the breath: Reverse breathing (sucking the tummy in on the inhale) is common. Place your hands on your belly and feel the belly swell and expand like a balloon on the inhale. When we reverse breath with limit the breath, limit our oxygen intake and deprive ourselves of vital prana energy. Many ancient traditions such as Taoism believe we accumulate and store energy in our belly area.
  • Breathing is not just for your lungs its for your whole body: You can consciously choose to direct the flow of your breath into absolutely any part of your body, for whatever purpose.  You might like to listen to one of my guided breathing rituals here.

You might also like to read one of my favourite books The Breathing Bookby Donna Fahri

May the  medicine in you rise my friend. xox  Carole

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~ Carole Bourne ~

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Al at 7P July 29, 2008 at 10:07 am

Wow, I didn’t realize that breathing released toxins too. The common thinking is that our emotions control our breathing, but it can be the other way around as well.

Thanks for a very thorough overview of how to take advantage of breathing techniques.

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Lightening July 29, 2008 at 10:35 am

Another fabulous article. Thanks Carole. Have stumbled it for you. Trying to remember to do that more when I find something I really find helpful or enjoyable. :)

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Jonathan Mead July 29, 2008 at 12:07 pm

This is awesome Carole!

I never knew there was so much to know about breathing. I knew it was important, but this is really eye opening. Thank you for taking the time to put all of this together.

Jonathan

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Healthy Living July 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Wow, thanks so much guys for your feedback and vote of confidence.

The weeks and weeks it took me to write this article was worth it with your awesome comments.

Peace, love and chocolate

Carole

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Health Guru July 29, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Great article again Carole!

This has been one of your best so far, and I really enjoyed reading the tips. I’ll definitely be trying them at work today here – we all know I’ll need the deep and relaxing breathes in the office!

All the best,

H.G.

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heywood jablomi July 30, 2008 at 2:12 am

“Inhale” is a verb, not a noun. “Check the depth of your inhale” should be “check the depth of your inhalation. “Breathe” is also a verb, not a noun, so “our breathe is the first thing to respond in your body” should be “your breath is the first thing to respond in your body.”

Color me anal.

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Annie Binns July 30, 2008 at 2:16 am

Such a wonderful article – I ALWAYS forget to make my belly soft when I breathe and when I did it just a minute ago after reading this, I instantly felt refreshed!!! Please know how much I appreciate that you spent an incredible amount of time writing a post like this. When you write something that makes someone else feel better – how powerful!! I know you will have this impact on everyone who reads this!

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Dennis Lewis July 30, 2008 at 3:55 am

Carole,

As the author of the two books you mention here, I was very pleased to learn about The Healthy Living Lounge.

Your readers might like to know about my website Authentic Breathing Resources, where they can read various articles about breathing and also learn some safe, simple, and effective breathing practices. The address is: http://www.authentic-breathing.com.

They might also wish to know about my monthly publication entitled “The Journal of Harmonious Awakening.” Anyone can subscribe to this free journal at http://www.dennislewis.org.

Keep up the great work!

With best wishes,

Dennis Lewis

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Cynthia Clinton July 30, 2008 at 10:30 am

Hi Carole,

I follow you on Twitter and you always give good reminders to pay attention to my breath. If not for you, I’d have taken a lot longer to get to that particular health improvement. I do controlled breathing in my meditations, but now pay attention to my breathing many more times during the day. Thank you!

Cynthia

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Christie July 30, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Your post on the power of breathing is right on the nose. Breathing exercises help me to start my day. I find that if I don’t do a number of these breathing techniques, my day is a complete whirl-wind. Thanks for giving me a few additions to my daily practice.

Christie
http://tinyurl.com/5ucg29

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6pack abs July 31, 2008 at 1:59 pm

What about breathing and exercise?

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Marelisa August 3, 2008 at 1:40 am

Hi Carole: I’ve read that you can stimulate both hemispheres of the brain by alternating breathing through each nostril (you close one nostril with your hand and breath out of the other nostril for a minute and then do the same with the other). I completely agree that controlling the breath can be rejuvenating and can instantly change our mood.

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omami September 17, 2008 at 3:18 am

Hi Carole,

I found this article so good that I registered myself for the first time just now at the two social bookmark sites to list it there. I have also bookmarked it at delicious so that more and more people can benefit from your useful work.

Sarva Mangalam

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Healthy Living September 17, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Hi Sarva,

Thank you so much for loving my article. Breathing is an awesome
tool that we can use at any time to change our response to any situation.

Peace, love and chocolate

Carole

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The Fitness Diva October 2, 2008 at 9:12 am

I love this article! wow! We spend so much time concentrating on other aspects of health and fitness that we forget the most important element of all; breathing. I will take more thoughtful, healthier breaths from now on! 😉
Interesting fact that shallow breathing causes memory loss. I didn’t know that!
Great post!

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Raffaella November 4, 2008 at 6:37 am

Thank’s for sharing! Your article is very interesting and useful!

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GaryD November 22, 2008 at 3:28 am

Great post! I especially liked your last point. I never thought about how shallow breathing can affect your memory! Wow, what a neuron opener! Thanks for the post!

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http://www.jeremydelgado.com December 7, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Excellent points, we always overlook what we think is automatic

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Personal Trainer February 19, 2009 at 5:17 am

You neglected to mention as my dentist always tells me…

Breathing out of your mouth is bad for your teeth and gums!

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diet al March 30, 2009 at 1:00 pm

great article, will focus on the exhale

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Hearing Aids June 3, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful and beneficial to your readers :)

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coches June 26, 2009 at 1:21 am

Very interesting facts about breathing.

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Quentin Fernandez July 7, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Hello Carole

That tip on proper breathing was excellent. A lot of us miss out due to the wrong method of breathing. It was worth reading that article

Thanks

Quentin

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anand khatri September 23, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Hello,
I am a theosphist and practise healthy living through Meditation and Yoga.
I live in New Delhi.
Life is an experiment and your article supports the direction of my search.
I thank you for your efforts and I appreciate your choice and direction of work.

Anand Khatri

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Ray April 11, 2010 at 7:04 am

A good site for the reminder to make one aspects of our fuel of life a better more refined fuel. However did you know that all the most most poweful energy centres we have, meridians and chakras all operate on the basis of good posture. Without it the entire system grows weak and slugglish and vulnerable to illness. Poor posture affects breathing through the stress on the brachial plexus and the very WRONG message of pulling back the shoulders to sit up straight. Otherwise your info is still very useful!!

Thanks

Ray Haq. Life yoga Head Instructor.

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Janet May 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I have been doing yoga for a little over a year and have learned so much about the importance of our breath. I have found it so helpful in many normal circumstances of life.
Thanks for the article. It has reminded me how important this is.

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John Raines August 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

I merely wish there have been more goodies on the internet today, thanks and can God Bless…

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Chris Bauman October 4, 2011 at 1:25 am

Hi,
Thank you for your welcome tips. You mention nose breathing rebalances oxygen and carbon dioxide. Yes, it’s important to get oxygen in gently and without effort at rest; it’s also very important that this precious oxygen gets delivered to the tissues. If there is an imbalance between O2 and CO2 in the bloostream, then hemoglobin will not release the O2 into the tissues and unpleasant symptoms can develop, leading to chronic illness. Learn more about CO2 and Buteyko breathing. It’s just as important as O2!

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Angel November 22, 2011 at 9:32 am

Excellent points, we always overlook what we think is automatic

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Tinks February 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

You might liek to check this website – it looks like someone has plagiarised your site content in regard to breathing. In a google search I put in “shallow breathing and memory loss” and your site showed first, followed by the one I am giving you the link to (http://thedetoxdiva.com/15-facts-to-love-about-your-breath/) Both had the same text in their google description …

15 Clever Things To Know About Your Breathing: | Rejuvenation …
thehealthylivinglounge.com/…/15-clever-things-to-know-about-your…Jul 29, 2008 – Shallow breathing causes memory loss: The Taoists believe that loss of oxygen though shallow breathing ie. your inhale only goes as deep as …

15 Facts to Love about Your Breath | The Detox Diva
thedetoxdiva.com/15-facts-to-love-about-your-breath/Aug 7, 2012 – Shallow breathing causes memory loss: The Taoists believe that loss of oxygen though shallow breathing ie. your inhale only goes as deep as ..

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Rohit Ranjane April 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

ohhh its great .thanks for providing such useful info. i did’t know breathing affects a lot on our body. I am sure it will help help me. I am doing these from these moment.

special thanks

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Rohit Ranjane April 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

ohhh its great .thanks for providing such useful info. i did’t know breathing affects a lot on our body. I am sure it will help help me. I am doing these from these moment.

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Vignesh April 13, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Excellent article Carole…U made us realize how important breathing is….:)

Thanks,

Vignesh S

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Barbara June 29, 2014 at 8:54 am

It’s early morning and my stumble upon delivery of this article has made my morning! How wonderful that we can lie flat on our backs and breathe evennif it’s too cold to jump out of bed to do so! I just fully openened my window and started breathing after reading your article! I also shared it on FB ! Thanks so much!

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Tam May 27, 2015 at 3:47 am

Hello – I came across your article today (“15 clever things to know about your breathing”), while doing some research for an online class I will be teaching about self healing.

I thought it was great (thank you!) and am wondering if you would give approval for me to utilize your article in my class? I would certainly be giving you credit, so if you approve… just send me the specifics on how you would like me to site your name and business and web site etc…

If this isn’t bright to you, I understand, but if you could let me know either way that would much be appreciated.

Thank you for your consideration and sharing your light with the world.

Blessings,
Tam

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Pourush Borgaonakr. September 25, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Very useful article . Controlled breathing and meditation can heal any ailment.

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