Next time you are somewhere public, look at the people around you. Observe how they breathe. The likelihood is that they are taking light shallow breaths. A big consequence of our modern day living is that we have forgotten how to breathe. This results from indoor living, cramped working conditions, less time spent in nature, less time exercising and a lot of time thinking. Over thinking often makes us live in a constant state of anxiety and unrest. This fear constricts our throats and as a result we don’t breathe deeply.
Our skin is like a second lung. Observe how when you have a shower and come into contact with cold or hot water, your initial response is to take a deep breath. When we are outside, contact with fresh air and outside weather makes us breathe fully and deeply. Often we wear many layers of clothes and our skin isn’t able to take in as much air. As a result our breathing is affected. Another important note here is the fabric of the clothes we wear. Often it is synthetic and unnatural.
In Indian philosophy, one who breathes hurriedly and carelessly dies sooner. On the other hand, one who breathes consciously and slowly, stores his health reserves and lives long. Usually when we breathe we only use a 5th of our lung capacity! In Yoga, breath is seen as life force: Prana. Without our breath, we would barely survive a couple of minutes. The air that you breathe is unseen vitality that fills our universe, all of creation. It is primordial energy. In Yoga people use this prana, air in breathing exercises as a way to store lifeforce reserves in their brain and nervous centres.
The gateway to the air is the nostrils. Your nostril hairs and mucous membranes prevent microbes and other things from entering your system. Cool air is warmed. The mouth in the other hand does not filter the air like the nose. Its defense system is there to protect the digestion. A normal person would never think of stuffing food through his nose, so let the nose do its job. To breathe.
Posture plays a big role too. Sitting at a computer desk encourages a hunched over position. Here the lower ribs are pressed over the diaphragm and the air is unable to flow downwards well. Lengthen your head and drop your shoulders. Notice now how easily you can breathe deeper.
My invitation to you is to get connected with your breath. Learn to breathe fully and slowly. In Yoga this is called Complete Breathing. Spend time out in nature. Try to get fresh air often. Exercise: go swimming, hiking, walk in nature etc. Whenever possible, let your bare skin breathe. Make time for deeper breaths. Your body and mind will thank you.