The human body is an amazing machine. At any given time, there are dozens of functions and processes taking place that are not visible or obvious. Some involuntary or automatic.
For example, your body has an involuntary system that keeps you from wetting your underoos anytime you have more than a few sips of your morning coffee. Once your bladder is full, the involuntary system releases and that’s where your voluntary system takes over and you need to hold yourself in order to prevent living your worst high school nightmare and creating a puddle in public!
That’s only one example, but just imagine everything that happens inside of you that you’re not aware of. One of the most important involuntary functions your body performs is breathing.
Think about it! You breathe constantly, all day and all night. You don’t think about it at all. Ever since your doctor smacked your butt and started you crying, you’ve been drawing breath.
We breathe because we require oxygen to enter our blood cells and help break down glucose and sugar, which we then expel as carbon dioxide. When we exercise, our respiration rate increases because we use our muscles and require more oxygen in the blood. Our heart rate increases along with our respiration to help pump the oxygen rich blood through our system.
Breathing can be both voluntary and involuntary. When doing the martial arts, we’ve been taught to do specialized breathing that helps control the flow of oxygen when executing a technique or doing forms. We control our breathing.
For folks in law enforcement and emergency response, tactical breathing helps to calm a person and lower their heart rate, making it easier to maintain control of a situation and properly assess things. When you panic, your breathing shallows and increases your heart rate. This is because shallow and rapid breathing reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and your body is trying to enrich your blood with as much oxygen as possible.
Why is this important? Well, from a Diabetes standpoint, we start to breathe rapidly when we experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is because the lowered amount of glucose in our blood makes it difficult to produce enough cell energy, and your body thinks it needs more oxygen.
From a martial arts or fitness standpoint, controlling your breathing will allow you to keep a cool head and control the situation you may be facing. It will also help improve your level of training. By properly exhaling during strikes or techniques, you help to properly expel carbon dioxide and this will help to prevent muscle fatigue during actual combat.
Pretty cool, right? All that is happening, just based on how you breathe. With all the things left to discover in the world, it can often be humbling to realize there will always be so much about our own bodies we don’t know.
So, keep on breathing… Actually, you don’t have a choice! But proper breathing exercises and meditation can go a long way towards helping with everything I’ve mentioned above. ☯