Breathe as though your life depended on it

Breathing is essential to life but often the quality of the breath is overlooked as a necessity for optimal health. By practicing conscious breathing, you can improve your sleep, reduce negative stress and boost many aspects of your health.

Most people inhale and exhale shallowly, and some of us even breathe shallowly in our sleep. There are many benefits to improving the quality of your sleep by using deep slow, rhythmic breathing techniques, and these practices do not cost you a dime or require any special equipment. They just require you to become aware. You will look and feel better and more vibrant within days.

Poor breathing habits can lead to a myriad of negative health consequences. Every cell of your body depends on oxygen, and shallow incomplete inhalation leads to oxygen deprivation in your organs, brain and tissues. Your brain is only 3 percent of your body’s weight, yet it requires 20 percent of the oxygen that you inhale. Vigorous exercise is also a great way to fully oxygenate your body because it dilates the blood vessels, increases the rate of respiration and circulation to totally infuse your body tissues with oxygen and to remove acid-causing carbon dioxide. 

Often times, shallow breathing is accompanied by slouching and subsequent compression of the internal organs. This leads to obviously poor posture, but also a further lack of oxygen that limits the effectiveness of your internal organs functionality. These postural faults lead to health challenges as well as esthetic deficits. Simply put, you don’t move well, think well or look good.

Some common ailments that can be at least partially alleviated by deep and full breathing are high blood pressure, migraine headaches, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, depression, muscular tension and insomnia. Deep conscious breathing can also lead to better concentration.

Deep full breathing can help reduce the levels of cortisol — the fight or flight hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands when you are stressed. This hormone prepares you to deal with adversity but if it is always present in your body due to unrelenting stress, then you never sleep well, or allow your body the rest and relaxation that it requires to regenerate. There is compelling evidence demonstrating that cortisol increases fat levels around the belly and leads to metabolic syndrome. There is also notable research that links good sleep patterns to loss of excess fat and reduction of the effects of metabolic syndrome. As well, sleep deprived people can never be on top of their game cognitively, emotionally or physically.

Yoga is one modality of conscious breathing. Practicing yoga on a daily basis is a good way to avoid the pitfalls of faulty breathing patterns. Qigong is another exercise modality that involves a meditative and deep breathing element. Simply taking a moment throughout your day to consciously breathe deeply, slowly and thoughtfully can improve your overall health immensely.  

It is not a coincidence that yoga and other restorative practices all begin with a long, slow, deep cleansing breath. During your moment, focus on positive affirmations such as relaxation, comfort, love, security, empowerment or whatever you need in your life. The power of thought and breath can work together to help you construct a more pleasant, less stressful and more harmonious existence. 

I teach both yoga and Pilates, poise, balance and functional nutrition as well as other exercise modalities at various locations throughout Kauai. Call me for information about these health giving opportunities. Wishing you pono and aloha in your life!


Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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