Sunday, November 18, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath

Have you ever noticed yourself holding your breath? I became very curious about the effects when I was catching myself doing it. I noticed that I used to hold my breath just prior to a panic attack or when I was feeling stressed. 

In order to combat the panic and stress, I decided, I should learn what the impact of holding my breath might be. Here's what I learned in the simplest way I can explain it.

Every function of your body needs energy in order to work. A simple example of this is your muscles. In order for your muscles to contract, they must burn energy to perform that function. The body gets this energy from combining the food you eat with the oxygen you breathe. 

There are a variety of chemical reactions that occur in the body, like feeding the muscles, and the processes require oxygen. When you persistently hold your breath you interrupt and frustrate all those processes. 

Now, I'm not saying that swimmers and musicians, people who frequently hold their breath in order to perform, will have all their systems shut down and die a miserable death. What I am saying is that those who frequently hold their breath without thinking, as a response to stress, are in danger of very many side effects.

Breath holding during food consumption is also common. Generally it's due to eating too fast. Being so focused with the idea of getting food in you quickly, or eating without thought and wondering where it all went... this is not good. Slow down, consider the food. Let your body register the flavors. 

Also, holding your breath while conscious is not really any different than struggling with sleep apnea. In fact, the effects are pretty much the same.

Our bodies need a continuous supply of food and oxygen to maintain energy throughout the day and during performance activities. 

It's kind of like keeping a pleasant camp-side fire going for cooking purposes; not letting it get too feverish or letting it die down too low for the purpose it was created for.

During the night, the campfire slowly becomes barely existent, but still warm and present. If it dies, it still has enough life in it that it's not too tough to rekindle. When you wake up and feed the body at breakfast, you are simply rekindling the energy of the fire (of your body). 

If you take in too much food too quickly, your oxygen intake is off balance for the task ahead. Essentially you have an out of control bonfire and anything could happen. You've little to no control over the effects. In fact, when your body breaks down the food, glucose is created and as your body breaks that down, the result is the creation of carbon dioxide. 

As we've learned from over-abundant environmental studies, too much carbon dioxide can cause damage to your muscles and other body parts. Many other things can happen, but that's as simple as I can get it.

Now, there are times where controlled breathing can be a good thing for the body; like yoga, managing hyperventilation, playing an instrument, swimming. The difference though, is that this is controlled in such a way that there are real benefits to the body, soul, and mind. 

Controlled burns in the environment can be a good thing. But get crazy with it and unobservant, just like with anything else and...well...anything good can become a bad thing if left unchecked.

Holding your breath can quite literally hinder your weight-loss efforts, emotional well being, panic, performance, attitude, blood pressure, metabolism, brain function, alertness, and so forth.

There's a lot more about holding your breath where science and technical jargon would need to be used in order to delve deeper than my surface banter in this blog post. 

I personally have experienced the benefits of conciously changing my unsteady breathing practices. There's so much benefit to bringing consciousness to your breathing habits.

It's important to strive to correct poor breathing habits so that you don't interrupt the goals that you are trying to achieve. Once again, anything good can become a bad thing if left unchecked.

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