Deep Breathing Excercises
( Originally Published 1904 )
"The Japanese eat fresh air with even more gusto than they do food. The samurai of old, rose in the morning to pass out into the open air, there to take a number of deep breaths. The time of the morning chosen was just as the snn was coming up."—II. Irving Hancock, in "Japanese Physical Training."
Think, for a moment, of the diseases that are caused by air starvation-by absolute starving for the want of pure air. Look at that terrible disease, consumption. I believe that consumption is largely caused by persons breathing foul and poisonous air. And all through its phases, from its beginning to death, it is aided and abetted by the breathing of bad air.
The blood, in order to be purified, must be supplied with oxygen. This cannot be done unless you have pure air. The members of the medical profession in New York, through the medium of their principal society, have made an announcement that pleases me most heartily. They state that no drugs or medicines of any kind can cure consumption the very statement that I have been making in my magazine ever since its inception — and I believe the time is not far distant when every medical society in this country will make almost the same assertion in reference to practically every disease. Furthermore, the society I have quoted stated that air in unlimited quantities, with proper exercise and a proper diet, were the only means that could cure consumption. The fresh air treatment is practically the only treatment for consumption that is accomplishing anything of special value at the present time. It is being adopted all over the country. Thousands of poor consumptive victims are being cured by living and sleeping in the open air.
And do not forget that an invalid always needs much more thorough ventilation than does the healthy person. Yet if you go into the bed-chamber or the living-rooms of the average sick person you will find, in many cases, that the windows are tightly closed. The sufferer seems to be afraid of air, fresh air, and doctors will buy oxygen by the cylinder and make the patient inhale it when they could just as well have opened the windows and secured this vigor-building element from the outdoor air.
I remember the first night I slept out-of-doors. It was in the winter a number of years ago. I was about forty miles north of New York City. During the night it snowed two or three inches, but I did not know it until morning. The most pleasing experience about sleeping in the open is that you awaken in an instant, feel rested, and ready for your work. The outdoor air seems to afford you better rest. You not only breathe fresh air, but it gives you pleasure to he able to look up and see the sky above you.
I do not advise that one begin exposure of this kind without preparation. Slowly inure yourself to sleeping under the sky canopy.
I do not know what I would not give, what sacrifice I would not make, if I could impress upon every living member of humanity, the absolute imperativeness of deep breathing. One who has learned to breathe properly, marvels that any human being can be found who will ignore in the least the importance of this far-reaching aid to physical development. Take my word for it, if you will, that life takes on, a wholly new and vastly brighter aspect once you have become possessed of the habit of breathing deeply the purest air that you can find.
I do not know how to say more on this immensely important subject. I would write added pages and pages if I felt that they would be of use in convincing my readers, that the kind of breathing usually practiced today is harinful to health in the highest degree, and that physical salvation can and must result from breathing in the right way.
Ever since I first began writing on physical culture, I have tried unceasingly to emphasize in the strongest possible manner, the great importance of learning how to breathe properly, and the value of acquiring a habit while in the open air, of frequently inhaling deep, full breaths. It is impossible to impress too strongly upon the physical culture student the necessity of so doing. If you are breathing improperly you cannot expect rewards of any consequence in physical development.
And when I speak of deep breathing, I mean literally deep breathing. That is, I mean that the air should be brought down into the lowest parts of the lungs. The movement should be in the abdominal region, as shown in the illustrations in another chap-ter. There is no need of any movement of note in the bony framework of the chest walls. This part of the body was not made to expand, unless a very deep, full breath is inhaled.
But when one breathes in the superficial way, that is, breathes from the upper chest, as most corseted young women do, the lower part of the lungs will remain unused. The air stagnates there, and thus hardly half of the lungs are given the action required for the perfect performance of their functional processes. No one can breathe in a shallow manner from the upper part of the chest only and possess perfect health.
When breathing properly, every one of the minute cells of the lungs is inflated to its fullest extent. The bulk of the impurities gathered up by the blood as it circulates through the body is eliminated through the lungs.
It is needless to emphasize the value of pure blood. Every reader of this volume thoroughly realizes its importance. Every part of the body, the bones, nerves, tissues, are first created and then maintained in strength and health by the blood. If this blood is pure, and rich in those elements essential to the building of a vigorous condition, the functional processes of the body will be properly performed.
Let me also again warn my readers against the baneful habit, recommended by many athletes, of holding the abdomen drawn in as far as possible at all times in walking or standing. This is unnatural and injurious. It interferes with the digestive process, as well as with free and natural breathing. The abdominal wall should be relaxed and allowed perfect freedom to expand and contract with the downward and upward movements of the diaphragm essential to proper breathing.
In filling the lungs to their greatest capacity while taking breathing exercises, it is always well to first force out all the air you possibly can, and this re-quires you to draw in the abdomen as far as possible, but, under ordinary circumstances, the abdominal wall should not be made tense and rigid, or held in.
There is one breathing exercise illustrated in this chapter that can be practised with great benefit, and can be combined with the full expansion of the lungs, the necessity for which I once more desire to emphasize.
Exhale all the breath that you can, drawing in the abdomen and forcing out as much air as possible. Make two or three attempts to force out Still more and then begin to inhale.
Draw in all the air you possibly can, expandrng first in the region of the abdomen. drawing back the Shoulders as shown in the illustration. You will flequently see athletes inhale a full breath, drawing in abdomen at the same time, and attempt to force the chest out as much as possible. This is not, the proper method of taking deep breathing exercise. The air should come to the lowest part of lungs and this can be accomplished only when the principal expansion begin in the abdominal region.