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A very common slogan among asthma sufferers is”When you can not breathe, nothing else matters”, alluding to the desperateness of one who can not inhale the life-giving air. Is life-giving air the entire story on breathing? This article takes common breathing advice and provides reasons for its effectiveness. It goes further and provides essential elements in breathing technique for superior health.
Breathing is perhaps one of the very densely integrated autonomous behaviours that reach well beyond a simple filling of the lungs. Garcia AJ writes in 2011:
“Breathing emerges through complex network interactions between neurons distributed throughout the nervous system. The respiratory rhythm generating network is composed of micro networks working within larger networks to create different rhythms and patterns that characterize breathing.”
The outworking of Garcia’s study can be observed when a person is influenced by strong emotions like fear & anger.
Mainstream suggestions for breathing is to override the autonomous control and inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth slowly with pursed lips.
By remembering to breathe, a space is created to restore calm and reduce blood pressure and stress hormones so creating opportunity of situation control.
Professor Konstantin Buteyko (Russia 1923-2003) is credited for a technique characterised by slow and decreased breathing combined with spaced pauses of no breathing allowing Carbon Dioxide to build up to bursting point.
Breathing is a relevant part of the practice of Yoga. Yoga breathing techniques typically follow either distinct poses or some form of meditation. Thus it is difficult to separate and ascribe the result to the breathing, poses or the meditation.
Pandit JJ, in 2003 tested 3 breathing techniques for optimum Oxygen uptake, as follows:
Four (4) deep breaths taken within 30 seconds
Eight (8) deep breaths taken within 60 seconds
The Oxygen uptake was the same for Things 1. & 3 and a higher efficacy compared to Item 2. His work illustrates that breathing technique is vital.
Enter Nitric Oxide (NO), a colourless gas with a half-life of only seconds.
In 1998 the Karolinska Institute awarded the Nobel prize to US pharmacologists Robert F. Furchgott, PhD, Ferid Murad, MD, PhD, and Louis J. Ignarro, PhD for their discoveries of the role of Nitric Oxide (NO) as being a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system.
NO relaxes the smooth muscle in arteries supplying a larger flow area for blood, thus reducing blood pressure and deliver more nutrients to where they are needed. The importance of NO in the human physiological functions cannot be overstated. Even though 1000’s of research papers are written, World research goes on. NO is implicated in heart health, lower blood pressure, better quality of sleep and even erectile dysfunction.
NO is produced in the uterus, the largest being the maxillary sinuses either side of the nose. They’re closed chambers except for a tiny soft-tissue opening known as the ossium which is open the olfactory airways.
There is no wrong or right way to breathe – the autonomous brain work sees to it that you get sufficient oxygen into your system. But, there are ways to breathe to get maximum NO into your system. Here are 7 pointers to help get this amazing gas in your bloodstream.
Nose hair and constricted nose ducting guarantee there’s a negative pressure in the airways. This partial vacuum causes the sinuses to deliver a small amount of NO-laden atmosphere into your inhaled breath. The harder you breathe at the longer NO the sinuses will deliver.
Blocking one nostril and in turn the other nostril will increase the partial vacuum to cause NO-laden air to be pumped into your inhaled breath.
Close both nostrils and try to inhale. This creates the greatest amount of vacuum in your respiratory system allowing NO-laden air to be sucked in the sinuses. Obviously you can only do this for a short time before resuming normal breathing.
NO needs time to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Accordingly it’s better to hold your breath for as long as it’s convenient. Alternatively exhale slowly to allow the lungs time to consume the NO.
Lundberg et al showed in 2003 that humming increases exhaled NO by 700%. Other researcher found an even greater increase in exhaled NO during humming. Problem is that it’s hard to inhale while stirring. Thus the sequence suggested is to hum for 3 seconds then immediately inhale. .
To overcome the issue of simultaneously humming and inhaling, it is suggested to pretend to snore, making the sound as if you were snoring. The snoring sound frequencies are in the range of the maxillary sinuses natural frequencies approximately 110 to 350 Hz. Letting the maxillary sinuses to resonate will pulse NO-laden air into the inhaled breath quantity. Because snoring is an inhaling manoeuvre the NO will reach the lungs at larger volume.
During a descent procedure in an aeroplane headaches are often avoided using the Valsalva manoeuvre. This manoeuvre involves closing both nostrils while trying to exhale until the ear drums’pop’. This has the effect of pressurizing the sinuses which upon following inhalation release the pressure and inject NO-laden air into the olfactory airways.
A. NO in the uterus is a finite resource and can be depleted. Eat loads of food rich in Nitrates eg Beetroot, Fenugreek, etc and give your body time to convert the Nitrates into NO.
B. Why don’t you breathe in NO gas just like they do for infants with pulmonary hypertension? The dose of NO in a medical setting is carefully controlled. Exposure of animals to NO has caused nausea, unconsciousness and death.
C. Why not sit in a high traffic area and breathe in the NO produced by automobiles? However, exhaust gases are a poisonous cocktail of other gases such as Carbon Monoxide. The danger of poisoning far outweighs any advantages to be gained.
After about 5 years of Purchasing women’s wear from China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia we discovered a need to ensure supply is based on the following:
• No child labour
• No Azo dyes that cause cancer
• No harsh processing chemicals that harm the environment.
• Fabric from renewable sources
• Natural flame retardant fabric
We went a little farther, and asked ourselves the question:
What can we add to our variety of clothing that enhances health in the wearer?
We came up with some surprising answers. Watch this space.
Good Health by Good Breathing

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