Given all the world has gone through with the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s take a moment to honor the human lungs. We’re standing to applaud them and invite you to do so.
It’s time to bring awareness to taking good care of our lungs. They have an important job: to help you breathe. When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.
The lung’s main function is to bring oxygen into your body and remove carbon dioxide. Every single cell in your body requires oxygen. So, this is a big role. Check out this short clip on how your lungs work.
Did you know how much air your lungs can hold? 6 liters!! Wowzers, that’s 3 large soda bottles! But how much air do you actually inhale for each breath? See it visually. Grab a clean, new deflated balloon. Take your usual “regular” inhalation without taking in more than you usually do. Now exhale that breath into the balloon. Notice if the balloon even inflates. Now, take a deep slow inhalation and fill your lungs to capacity. Then exhale that full breath into the balloon. See how much it inflates. That is the amount of air your lungs are capable of inhaling. But notice how little of its capacity you use for your “regular” breaths. Not passing judgment here, but tsk, tsk, tsk…
We are born in this world inhaling. Babies innately know to fully engage the diaphragm taking deep refreshing breaths with belly breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing). This enables full oxygen exchange with fresh air coming in, while stale and waste air leave the body. But as we get older, experience distress, and perhaps “suck in” our belly for a seemingly trimmer waistline, we shift to a shallow and less satisfying “chest breathing.” And after the age of 35, your lung function may begin to decline. The muscles become weaker and may lose elasticity which means the airways can get smaller. And your rib cage can get smaller leaving less room for the lungs to expand. This means breathing can become more difficult with aging. But there’s hope yet!!! Re-learning how to properly breathe can happen and is beneficial for everyone.
Breathing exercises strengthen your diaphragm and trains your body to breathe more deeply and effectively. They get rid of the stale air, increase oxygen levels in your body, and strengthen your lungs. Stale air takes up space in your lungs, leaving less room for the diaphragm to contract and to bring in fresh oxygen. This causes low oxygen levels leading to fatigue and less energy -hopefully you don’t find this article stale and causing fatigue. Back to interesting facts: when the diaphragm is not working to its full capacity, then the body will use neck, chest and back muscles to help breathe. Let’s re-train the diaphragm to do the work. Keep in mind, just one breathing exercise for a minute will not enhance your lung capacity, but still can greatly reduce stress levels.
Breathing exercises and deep breathing are core components of the Tamarkoz Method of Meditation. Here are some benefits of our deep breathing exercises:
- Calms the mind with the breath as a focal point.
- Relaxes the nervous system.
- Relaxes muscles from physical tension.
- Slows the heart rate.
- Decreases blood pressure.
- Enhances feelings of peacefulness.
- Increases energy.
The oxygen you inhale helps make energy for your body called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in a process called cellular respiration. Just as a fire needs oxygen to burn, the body needs oxygen to create energy for its work. Oxygen also fuels the electromagnetic centers in the human body as taught by M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi®. Through deep breathing, concentration, and Movazeneh, the 13 electromagnetic centers of the human body are harmonized, balancing the flow of energy through them.
In the book “Expansion & Contraction Within Being (Dahm),” the Great Sufi Master Professor Nader Angha provides meticulous scientific detail on cellular respiration and the role of oxygen from deep breathing. He further details the beneficial healthful results during true meditation with deep inspiration- expiration, and complete concentration.
How can I practice breathing more and using my lungs to full capacity?
Practice Tamarkoz techniques. Every session in the Tamarkoz App consists of guided breathing exercises or deep breathing that you can practice anytime on your own.
Belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) helps keep your airways open longer. One basic example is to place your hands comfortably on your belly. Sit tall or lay on your back. Simply inhale through the nose and notice how much your belly expands with air. Breathe out through your mouth at least two or three times longer than you inhale. Relax your shoulders and your neck so your diaphragm re-trains to do the work to fill your lungs and empty them.
What else can I do to take better care of my lungs?
In addition to breathing exercises, regular physical exercise makes your lungs stronger. Just as physical activity improves muscle strength and fitness, exercise makes your lungs more efficient with getting oxygen into your bloodstream which is taken to your muscles. This can prevent shortness of breath as you exercise over time.
Regular physical activity is beneficial for everyone regardless of age, weight, chronic disease, including lung disease, or disability. It doesn’t have to be a formal fitness routine to be beneficial. The type of exercise and how much depends on you. Always talk to your doctor before you start or change your exercise routine especially if you have an underlying health condition.
Avoid exercising outdoors when air pollution is high. But don’t skip on your exercise, just do what you can indoors. Check air quality from your local weather report or AirNow.gov.
Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, cycling help your lungs efficiently function. Muscle-strengthen or anaerobic exercises like weightlifting, Pilates, Movazeneh tone your breathing muscles.
Public Health Advice: If you notice any sudden difficulties in breathing, call your doctor right away. Stay up to date with your vaccinations for Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD). These are infections transmitted through the respiratory tract such as COVID-19, influenza, whooping cough, meningitis, measles, chickenpox, and tuberculosis. If you catch a cold or flu, allow your body plenty of rest and time to recover and consult with your physician.
The lungs work every minute, every day of our lives. They need to be maintained, cared for, and respected. Remember, they provide your inspiration.
“The Sufi, the grace of the breath doth acquire
That which the eternal inspiration lyre
Inspire, inspire, inspire1”
Professor Sadegh Angha (p. 164, Ghazaliat)
- Angha, S. 1997. Ghazaliat. University Press of American. Lanham, Maryland. Page 164.
- Exercise and Lung Health. (July 13, 2020). American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/exercise-and-lung-health
- Lung Capacity and Aging. (November 23, 2021). American Lung Association.https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/how-lungs-work/lung-capacity-and-aging
- Breathing Exercises. (November 23, 2021). American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/breathing-exercises
- Learning Diaphragmic Breathing. (March 10, 2016). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/learning-diaphragmatic-breathing
- Angha, N. 2000. Expansion and Contraction Within Being (Dahm) Shahmaghsoudi Printing and Publication Center, Riverside, California.
- Understanding breathing and the importance of taking a deep breath. (September 18, 2018). UCHealth.https://www.uchealth.org/today/understanding-breathing-and-the-importance-of-taking-a-deep-breath/