Anyone who has ever done Pilates or taken a Yoga class knows that one of the great benefits derived from those types of classes is the relaxation and sense of well-being that comes from an hour of deep, deliberate breathing.

Every day, you breathe 20,000 times. It’s one of those things that we all take for granted. You don’t have to remember to breathe, or put it on your calendar, you just do it.

You can go without food for a long time. You can even go without water, for a lesser time. But oxygen you can only live without for a few minutes.

So today’s post is a tribute to the incredible, vitalizing force of oxygen. Lifestyle enthusiasts teach us a lot about eating well and exercise. However, they don’t talk too much about how good nutrition and exercise are important because they also increase our oxygen levels.

Here are some ways that can help you get the most out of that good atmospheric stuff that all of our lives depend upon.

Just Breathe

While “just breathe” is always good advice, “breathe consciously” is better advice. Did you know that your lung capacity decreases with 5% every decade of life?

If you set aside three minutes three times a day to breathe consciously, your stress levels will improve, your blood pressure will drop and your mind will become clearer. As a bonus, you’ll be increasing your lung capacity as well.

It’s All in Your Head

Your brain needs 20% of the body’s oxygen. That means, if you are feeling mentally dull, one of the best ways to increase energy in your brain is to do some deep, deliberate breathing.

The major source of oxygen is from breathing, but please keep in mind that we also get oxygen from what we eat and drink.

Eat Colorfully

Fresh, raw produce in an array of colors is not only the most nutrition dense food – it is also the most alkaline. Alkaline foods increase the oxygen levels in your blood.

Processed Foods Are Not Your Friend

Processed foods are those foods that are canned, boxed, frozen and contain a dozen chemicals that you can’t pronounce. Junk food, fast food, sugary food and bleached food are acidic, and as such, they diminish the oxygen levels in your blood.

Here’s the really sad news, caffeine lover that I am: caffeine is acidic and ditto on the alcohol. Knowing that should stimulate reasonable and educated choices. So make sure that you put a stick of celery in that Bloody Mary!

Monitor Your Stress

Stress depletes oxygen levels in the body. If you work too much or too hard, you’re not getting enough oxygen. Traumatic events and prolonged depression or anxiety deplete oxygen levels, too.

Some stress cannot be avoided, but we can add deep, deliberate breathing exercises to our daily routine to help ameliorate the effects of stress. It literally takes only minutes.

Exercise

We all know that regular exercise gives us energy and keeps us strong and fit. It’s because the body absorbs more oxygen when you exercise. Increased breathing during exercise delivers more oxygen to our system. Trees produce oxygen, so deep breathing in nature is better yet!

Deliberate Breathing

The FDA has actually approved deep breathing as a treatment for lowering both stress levels and blood pressure. Deliberate, deep breathing can also be a natural remedy for tension and headaches.

Portable Breathing Exercises – Take Them Wherever You Go

You can do the following exercises with five repetitions, and it will take you all of two minutes. Choose one that best suits you, or mix them up throughout the day. The results will be noticeable immediately. I like to close my eyes during the exercise, but you don’t have to.

Exercise #1

At your desk or in a comfortable chair, take a deep breath through your nose, filling your belly first, the lower lungs, then the upper lungs.

Hold your breath for a count of three then release all the air through the mouth with an ahhh sound, forcing out every last little bit of air. Repeat five times. I like to do this before I write in the morning, because it clears my head.

Exercise #2

Counting breaths. Breathe through the nose and count as you inhale to your full lung capacity. 1-2-3-4… breathe out softly through slightly pursed lips, counting again 1-2-3-4. You can do this exercise walking or sitting, standing in line, anywhere. Repeat five to six times for best results.

Being mindful and self-nurturing in our lifestyle choices allows us to age vitally and dynamically.

Do you experience the benefits of deep breathing through Pilates or Yoga? Do you do any breathing exercises during your day? Please share how conscious breathing improves and benefits your life. Hit me up in the comments section!

Stephanie RaffelockStephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.

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