It is undisputed how important it is for our health that we ensure we are getting enough oxygen. In an earlier blog, I discussed the “Rule of Threes” which says that the average person can go three weeks without food, three days without water, and only three minutes without oxygen.
Now there is evidence that it is not only important to get enough oxygen but it is also important to be aware of how we breathe to supply our bodies with this essential gas. I’m not necessarily talking here about shallow breaths or deep breaths, but rather that we should be more aware or “mindful” of how we are breathing. The idea is that by being mindful, we can work on controlling how we breathe which, in turn, can result in a variety of physical and emotional health benefits.
There are some easy breath control practices (also known as breath work) that you may want to try and experiment with. It may only take 10 to 20 minutes a day of breath-control practices to reap the benefits. I like to think of it as part of my health and wellness regimen, like exercising and eating healthily. You can also combine your breathing exercises with your other exercises, such as walking, and get double benefit!
These basic breath work techniques include:
There are other techniques that you may want to explore and experiment with, but these five are a great place to start. It’s also good to know that there are a variety of apps that you can download to your smartphone to help you with breath work. Some are free, such as one offered by UCLA in California, while others are subscription based. Many also include guided meditations that you can follow as you practice your breath work allowing you to do two beneficial activities at the same time.
Keep in mind that mindful breathing and breath work requires some practice, so don’t be discouraged. Also, try to do them with a minimal number of distractions. I find that doing them when I first get up in the morning, before the day’s activities take over and when it’s still quiet outside, works well for me. Try different times and environments until you find the best combination for you. And if you find your mind wandering, don’t worry. Just refocus on your breathing.
Proponents of mindful breathing and/or breath work point to the variety of potential health benefits, some of which may be especially attractive to those of us over 60. These may include:
It’s important that you talk with your healthcare provider before embarking on mindful breathing or breath work, since these practices may not be right for everyone. This is especially true if you have any contraindicated medical conditions that could make them risky. These risks include:
You can greatly enhance the effectiveness and benefits of your mindful breathing and breath work by making sure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. Start with making sure you are drinking enough water. This will help your lungs better absorb oxygen from the air you inhale and expel carbon dioxide and other toxins as you exhale.
Be sure to include iron-rich foods in your diet. Some are meat, beef liver, chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans, oysters, fortified grains like cereals and breads, tofu, dark chocolate, spinach, tomatoes, lentils, , cashews, tuna, turkey, broccoli, raisins, and potatoes.
You should also talk with your health care provider about taking a nutrient test to make sure you are getting enough vitamins B12 and D. The former plays a key role in the production of red blood cells (these cells carry oxygen throughout your body). And the latter may help reduce any inflammation you may have in your airways.
Vitamin B12 can be found in animal foods such as eggs, poultry, fish, milk, and red meat. Since many of us who are over 60 often have problems absorbing vitamin B12 from food, we may need to take a supplement. Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, salmon, orange juice and eggs.
Have you ever tried any type mindful breathing or breath work? If so, what where they? Did you did you find them helpful? If so, in what way? Did you talk with your doctor or others before doing mindful breathing or breath work? If it didn’t help, will you try again and what would you do differently? Please join the conversation.
Tags Healthy Aging