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The Body Breathes Us

By: | Posted in: Blog, Featured | Friday, Oct 11, 2019 - 6:05pm

There are times throughout the day when my Skelly holds her breath out of fear, fatigue or stress and that’s not good for bone health. There are many ways that we manipulate breath, from holding it or allowing it in/out on a shallow level to taking in tiny gulps when stressed.

“It’s amazing how many folks do not breathe into their lower lungs and belly,” said Dr. Thomas J. Francescott, ND, a naturopath who practices in New York’s upper Hudson Valley. “Breathing has the ability to help stress hormones, vagus nerve (runs from the brain through the face and thorax down to the abdomen, containing parasympathetic fibres) and general relaxation.  In terms of bone health, stress plays a big role in bone breakdown.  So simple techniques to oxygenate the tissues can help to build bones” 

BreathingThere are a vast variety of specified breathing practices that allow for deeper and more regulated breathing. 

However, the amazing fact is that during the course of every day, without giving it much effort or thought, the body takes care by breathing for us.  By placing a focus on how one is breathing, the dynamic of an individual’s vitality can shift.  With more regulated breath, a person can experience a higher level of energy and concentration.  And, the systems of the body can run more efficiently, properly oxygenating the blood, tissues, organs, and bones.

For natural skill, look toward a sleeping newborn baby. 

You most easily see that the belly expands during inhalation and contracts during exhalation.  When moving through daily life this isn’t the typical MO for adults. 

Stress, and not being present to the moment, leads to an oxygen shortage in the body without much realization that it’s there.  Self-consciousness, regarding weight around the abdominal area, leads to bellies being pulled in on both the inhale AND the exhale. 

In this case vanity wins over the breath entering and exiting in clear, broad strokes.  For others, when in difficult situations and those experiences that bring about  feelings such as anger, disappointment or fear, there is tendency to hold the breath.

This resistance to the natural order of breathing is likened to a traffic jam at rush hour.

Things are moving at barely an operating pace. With strong lung capacity, the body can more readily self-regulate and allow the breath be a cleansing mechanism by letting the hair in the nostrils do the job of filtering the oxygen in and sending the carbon dioxide out.

There are many types of breathing exercises for those who desire more formalized practice. 

Pranayama— composed of two Sanskrit words:  Prāna meaning life force and āyāma, meaning to extend, draw out, restrain, or control–is the umbrella breathing technique used in yoga class.  There are many types of pranayama.  

Ujjayi Pranayama (ooh-JAH-yee  prah-nah-YAH-mah) is the most utilized, calming  the mind and warming the body. During inhale and exhale  lungs are completely filled, while there is a slight throat contraction—utilizing the muscle used to whisper-while breathing through the nose.    Detailed tutorials on various pranayama techniques are found on You Tube.

Breathing practices help disengage distracting thoughts and sensations.  Keeping presence requires a daily routine for time and quiet, a comfortable space to practice, with more ease than rigor.  To get to the point of a deeper relaxation through breath is to shift focus to deeper calmer rhythms helped by paying attention to the body. (i)

Where to start if you want to have healthier breathing?

Here’s a simple exercise to relax the nervous system, requiring a five minute minimum commitment daily:

-Lie down.

-Place one hand on the belly and one on the heart.  Focus so that belly expands during inhale/contracts during exhale, breathing through the nose.

-Inhale (count of two)

-Exhale (count of four

With practice, as lung capacity increases, you can extend this (i.e. breathe in for six or eight, breathe out for 12 or 16—always doubling the exhale.)

Here’s a thought.  Right now. 

Stop what you’re doing and take a deep life affirming breath.

Your Skelly will thank you.

From my deep breathing bones to yours,

 

Irma

(i) https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/breath-meditation-a-great-way-to-relieve-stress

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4 comments

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    I am so happy to have learned the importance of correct breathing for my bone and brain health. Such simple and helpful information. Now I am paying closer attention to how I breath and try to continue breathing for good results. Thank you very much for this advice. I will also look on You Tube for more learning.

    Comment by Cameron on October 16, 2019 at 5:46 pm
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    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Thrilled my blog is offering a learning tool!
    From my bones to yours,
    Irma

    Comment by Irma Jennings on October 18, 2019 at 8:35 pm
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    Hi Irma, Thank you for so much all the info on how to get my “skelly” back to good health. I really appreciate that you tell us what to expect from the BMD scan . What I would like to know is if it is possible to see to which side the degree of osteopenia leans….the normal and osteoporosis.

    Comment by Erica on July 12, 2020 at 1:30 am
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    Erica: I’m not exactly sure what you are looking for. Here is a quote from Harvard’s newsletter:

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/osteopenia-when-you-have-weak-bones-but-not-osteoporosisOsteopenia and bone density test
    The main way to determine your bone density is to have a painless, noninvasive test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) that measures the mineral content of bone. The measurements, known as T-scores, determine which category — osteopenia, osteoporosis, or normal — a person falls into (see graphic).

    Fracture risk increases as bone mineral density declines. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2001 reported that a 50-year-old white woman with a T-score of -1 has a 16% chance of fracturing a hip, a 27% chance with a -2 score, and a 33% chance with a -2.5 score.

    But there isn’t a huge difference between, say, a -2.3 T-score and -2.5, although the former would be labeled osteopenia and the latter, osteoporosis. “The label matters less than the number. These distinctions are to some extent arbitrary lines in the sand,” says Dr. Maureen Connelly, a preventive medicine expert at Harvard Medical School. Regardless of your exact score, if your bone density results fall into the osteopenia category, your doctors will probably schedule you for a bone mineral density test every two to five years.

    What’s your bone density score?
    A T-score ranging from -1 to -2.5 is classified as osteopenia. The lower the score, the more porous your bone.

    Normal; Osteopenia -1; Osteoporisis -2.5

    Osteopenia Prevention
    Everybody’s bones get weaker as they get older. But certain choices and habits accelerate the process. They include:

    not getting enough calcium and vitamin D
    smoking
    drinking too much alcohol
    using certain medications, such as corticosteroids and anticonvulsants
    not getting enough weight-bearing exercise (at least 30 minutes on most days). If your feet touch the ground during an exercise, it’s probably weight bearing. Running and walking are weight bearing. Swimming and biking are not.
    Women are far more likely to have low bone density than men, but it’s no longer viewed as solely a women’s condition. About a third of white and Asian men over age 50 are affected. The percentages for Hispanics (23%) and blacks (19%) are lower, but still sizable.

    Comment by Irma Jennings on July 15, 2020 at 9:07 am