How We Breathe

Imagine you have a fire burning inside that produces all the energy you need to live. Just like a real fire, if you have too much oxygen, the fire will burn too much potentially causing damage. This is known as oxidative stress on the body. However too little oxygen will mean the fire cannot burn at all.

So we need the right balance of oxygen, not too much and not too little.

O2 + Glucose = CO2 + H2O + ATP (energy)

When you inhale you breathe in oxygen. This combines with glucose in the mitochondria of your cells to produce carbon dioxide, water and ATP energy. When you exhale you breathe out the carbon dioxide and water.

Inhalation stimulates your sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight), and when you exhale you stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest).

By changing the way you breathe you can switch on or off the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system depending on what result you want.

Breathing in more oxygen than normal by rapid breathing will be energizing on the body. It will also cause contraction in the body as you breathe out carbon dioxide.

Slowing down the rate of breathing and extending your exhalation will have a relaxing effect on the body as you raise carbon dioxide and also stimulate nitric oxide that dilates blood vessels.

pH – The Most Important Factor For Life To Exist

Your blood needs to be slightly alkaline at a pH of 7.4 or else the chemical processes that drive your life cannot function. So your body does its best to maintain this exact pH value. Oxygen increases the alkalinity of your blood whereas carbon dioxide makes it more acidic.

Your body can actually survive low pH of around 6.8 without any lasting disturbances to your physiology. These states may be created under intense exercise or long breath retentions and you easily recover from it. However a high pH of 8 and above can quickly kill you and your body struggles to recover.

You actually have an abundance of oxygen and you can measure this by using a pulse oximeter. It will show that most people have 97-99% SpO2 reading under normal conditions and it is not easy to get this reading down to a hypoxic level. So it is very easy to over breath and make your blood too alkaline under times of stress. You breathe out too much carbon dioxide and breathe in too much oxygen.

This state is called ‘respiratory alkalosis’ and your blood cells quickly correct this by producing more acid in the blood. However if this situation is chronic due to high stress levels, or certain disease states causing you to over breathe, your kidneys have to take over. This can make you lose important minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium and phosphates. Your body may also compensate by dumping extra acid, meaning there is less available for your stomach and this may lead to digestive disorders.

Too much oxygen leads to contraction and sympathetic dominance, meaning you do not go into the necessary parasympathetic rest and digest mode causing digestive disorders.

Chronic respiratory alkalosis caused by chronic stress can lead to:

  • Chronic anxiety/depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Stiff joints, muscles and inflammation.
  • Asthma
  • Digestive disorders
  • Over eating.
  • Kidney disorders
  • Heart disease and failure

How Your Body Rusts

When you expose metal to air for long periods of time such as the body of your car, the oxygen in the atmosphere reacts with the metal through a process called oxidation that causes it to rust.

The same rusting occurs in the body that can lead to inflammation and cell damage.

This is why we want to control the amount of oxygen that goes into the body.

By a process known as the Bohr effect, you need a certain concentration of carbon dioxide in order to release oxygen into your tissues which is normally bound to haemoglobin.

So disease can also be the result of over breathing or hyperventilation that happens when you are stressed or anxious which causes you to have too little carbon dioxide and too much oxygen bound to haemoglobin and not enough going into the cells where it is needed to create energy.

I believe that Yoga was developed to help you become super efficient at burning oxygen, giving you the right amount of carbon dioxide in your body, so that you can survive with less oxygen, creating less oxidative stress on the body, promoting longer, disease free lives.