The Powers Of The Breath
( Originally Published 1930 )
The fact that the breath is of greater importance than food is fully recognized by the Indians. Not only is breathing the most important function of the body, but all other functions are dependent upon it. Man can subsist many days without food, but he can live only a few minutes without air. Respiration is a function of the body that is continuous and without cessation. The purification of the blood by air in the lungs and the propelling of that blood by the heart to the farthest extremities of the body, and back again, depend upon the breath. When respiration ceases, all the vital functions cease and death ensues.
Since the lungs are situated in the torso above the diaphragm, protected by a bony cage composed of the ribs, shoulders, spine and breast bones, and not in the abdomen, the Indian claims that the breath should not be drawn toward the abdominal region. The muscles of the diaphragm are designed to operate up and down, rather than in and out. This action is in harmony with an inward and upward pull of the abdominal muscles. Properly used, the diaphragm is capable of infinitely more power. It certainly sounds reasonable and further-more it works. In our humble opinion, many large abdomens are due to abdominal breathing and rigid postures. The spine, ribs, shoulders and breast bones are all designed for flexible movement, to co-ordinate with the rhythmic motion of the breath. Nature abhors rigidity.
Man also breathes through the pores of the skin and through the tiny spaces between the cells. The human body is porous.
Oxygen starvation, from the lack of pure air and sunshine, or from insufficient breathing, is more common by far than food starvation. It is starvation in the midst of plenty, through carelessness or ignorance.
The white man should breathe more and eat less. The average person uses only one-sixth of his lung capacity; he only half lives !
Food cannot be digested or assimilated without the action of air in the process. Deep breathing assists very materially in producing both health and strength. It serves to increase the weight of thin, emaciated persons or those wasted with disease, and also aids in the reduction of excessive fat, through proper oxygenation.