Breathing is a highly complex basic function of our bodies. It’s not only completely autonomous, but is also the only basic function that we can influence and control voluntarily, i.e. quite consciously, at times.
“This fact alone makes breathing both remarkable and unique. Respiratory physiology and mechanics are not only vital; they are as fascinating as they are complex,” says Dr Peter B. Barth. As an experienced Mayr physician at the Park Igls health retreat, he knows that good breathing techniques are both rewarding and beneficial to health. Not all of us, however, are experienced Mayr doctors, actresses, opera singers, lung specialists, yogis or voice or meditation trainers – in other words, someone who deals with breathing for a living. Therefore, many of us are often unaware of the importance and effectiveness of correct breathing techniques – at least not to the proper extent.
Take a deep breath and just calm down! There are many moments when we truly notice our breath: When someone gasps from excitement, when one feels completely out of breath after climbing the stairs or after an intense exercise session, when a breath catches in our throat from shock, or when something is simply breathtakingly beautiful… Even our use of language reveals that our breathing is of paramount importance in any situation. In fact, every physical and mental state affects our breathing. Joy, anger, excitement, sexual arousal, calmness or nervousness influence our respiratory centre and increase or inhibit breathing.
We breathe 24 hours a day. Without breathing, there is no life. And without functioning lungs, there is no breathing. As the organ responsible for respiration, our lungs ensure that adults inhale and exhale between 10,000 and 20,000 litres of air every single day. In fact, we breathe in and out 12 to 17 times per minute on average. According to Dr Barth, “The lung is a precise, high-performance machine. Without it, we are literally finished, so it goes without saying that we must avoid doing harm to our lungs… smoking, for example.”
What you should also know: Proper breathing techniques can be learned. Mostly due to stress, we often do not breathe properly. This means that we breathe too shallowly and not enough into the abdomen. “Abdominal breathing is essential to a proper breathing function. It allows for deeper breathing,” explains Barth.