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Maintaining your health

Do not attempt this unless you are in very good health see the disclaimer

What could be more natural than breathing? You might be amazed to learn that breathing—an act that we do some 20,000 times each day—can deeply influence your health and happiness on many levels.

Breathing has been long considered essential for maintaining chi, the life-force energy of Eastern cultural traditions. Only more recently, however, have Americans begun to embrace the wisdom of taking a deep breath.

Here's what happens: Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body, from your brain to your vital organs. Without sufficient oxygen, your body can become more susceptible to health problems. For example, in a study published in The Lancet, cardiac patients who took 12 to 14 shallow breaths per minute (six breaths per minute is considered optimal) were more likely to have low levels of blood oxygen, which "may impair skeletal muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance."

In contrast, deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health in many ways—from stimulating the digestive process to improving fitness and mental performance. Even alternative health icon Dr. Andrew Weil says: "If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly."

Are You a Shallow Breather?
We can see that most people are "shallow breathers"—they use only the narrow top portion of the lung surface for oxygen exchange.

To find out if you're a shallow breather, try a simple test: Put your palms against your lower abdomen and blow out all the air. Now, take a big breath. If your abdomen expands when you inhale and air seems to flow in deeply to the pit of your stomach, you're on the right track.

More typically, though, shallow breathers are likely to take a breath and pull in their stomach, which pushes the diaphragm up so the air has nowhere to go. What happens next is that the shoulders go up to make room.