The Essentials of Breathing
Of the choices you make in the Six Essential areas we've been discussing -- what you eat and drink, how you exercise and rest, what you breathe and what you think -- breathing has a distinguishing characteristic. It is the only one of the six you can't put off for more than a few minutes without major repercussions.
Breathing isn't a learned skill. For the most part, your subconscious mind takes care of your breathing while you tend to more pressing matters. Yet, despite its automatic nature, you can consciously control your breathing -- when you breathe, how fast you breathe, and what you breathe -- to a point. Under normal circumstances, if you stop for more than 10 or 15 seconds, you must concentrate on what you're doing.
Since your body is designed to do everything it can to survive the moment, and since you must breathe to survive, you will breathe -- or, you will pass out. When you are unconscious, your conscious mind is out of the way and your subconscious takes exclusive control of vital internal functions, and restores the breathing process.
The primary purpose of breathing is to get oxygen to the cells. Cells need oxygen in order to function. They take in oxygen to use in their functioning, and as they function, they produce carbon dioxide. But carbon dioxide is a waste product. And if the cell is full of that waste, there isn't enough room for new oxygen. So the carbon dioxide must be eliminated.
The purpose of breathing, then, is not only to bring oxygen into your body but also to get rid of waste carbon dioxide. Your blood cells can carry the greatest amount of oxygen when your internal environment is slightly alkaline. So, it's important that the carbon dioxide be disposed of as quickly as possible.
What choices do you have in the breathing category? The most obvious is the smoke-or-not-smoke choice. That's an easy one -- don't. Smoking dumps potentially lethal toxins into the body, which go directly to the blood stream without being processed through physiological protective mechanisms. Unlike food, which is neutralized by stomach acid or detoxified by the liver, no denaturing process tempers the direct hit of pollutants of cigarette smoke. Smoking puts a direct toxic hit on the body.
Choices of the type of environmental air you breathe are not so clear-cut. However, you do have choices. You have some say in where you live and where you work. The decision to accept a job in a chemically intense environment, such as a printing company or the spray-painting department of an auto body shop, is a conscious choice. The decision to smoke or not smoke cigarettes is a conscious choice, as is the decision to live in an area of heavy air pollution. Your decisions are a matter of priorities.
Respiratory toxicity from smoking or environmental pollution imposes severe stress on the body. That stress can exacerbate weakening or exhaustion of vulnerable organs and systems which are trying to cope with other stresses. The additional stress of being immersed in environmental toxic waste can tip the scales to the development of disease.
You can make conscious choices regarding the quality of air your body must contend with. If you suffer with severe respiratory allergies or respiratory disease, quality of life can be synonymous with quality of air. Radical choices and changes may be required.
The trick is to keep a healthful balance in the choices you make. When you make mostly correct choices in each of the six essential areas, there's room for a bit of slippage on occasion -- pigging out on acid-ash producing foods at holiday time, taking some time off from your regular exercise program, burning the midnight oil, or visiting your old school chum in a highly polluted city.
When you habitually make choices that allow your body to be in the best shape possible, your body can handle the occasional "incorrect choice" fling without suffering long-term ill effects. But when you make mostly incorrect choices, your body is fighting an uphill battle all the way and there's little margin for error.
Your best bet for health is balance, both in the run-and-rest processes of your organs and systems, and in the acid-alkaline internal environment of your body. Balance your choices in the six essential areas of life and you give your body the best internal environment possible for it to do what it does best -- function perfectly for survival.