Your breath is both external and internal. External breathing moves air in and out of your lungs in exchange with the earth’s atmosphere. Internal breathing moves your blood to bring fresh oxygen to all your cells and to carry away their carbon dioxide waste.
External breathing begins after birth when your umbilical source of oxygen from your mother comes to an end and you take your first breath of air.
Internal breathing predates external breathing and connects you to the origins of life.
Within each cell, fats and sugars from your digestion burn in contact with the oxygen you have taken from the air. The resulting ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is your chemical source of energy. Carbon dioxide is is left over as waste.
Our cellular energy production is the exact mirror of photosynthesis in plants, which feed off carbon dioxide, produce sugars and expel oxygen as waste. Our lives balance with plant life through the air. The green that shows were photosynthesis is taking place brings us relief.
The branching shape of our air passages mirrors the branching shape of plants.
In the same way that infants love their mothers they depend on for life, we naturally love the plants and air that have taken over our mothers’ nurturing role.
Mitochondria are the organelles within our cells that generate energy. We inherit them solely from our mothers. Mitochondria have their own DNA and matrilineal ancestry.
Mitochondria are slippery outside for ease of movement within the cell, and wrinkled inside to create more surface area for energy production. So our energy is generated in richly folded inner landscapes that can slide easily to where energy is needed.
The red blood cells that carry oxygen from our lungs to our cells have all had their nuclei removed before being put into service. They have had their histories erased.
Most air in our lungs is there to keep our little alveoli air sacs inflated. External breathing tops up or depletes this reservoir of air. If air in our windpipes is like wind slowing down into ever smaller tunnels, then alveoli are like tiny rooms with windows open to the faint breeze outside.
In slow easy breaths, alveoli spring to life or deplete sequentially.
The air pressure of an exhale pushes against the ambient pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. When an exhale is finished, internal pressure drops to below ambient pressure, which then takes over and blows into us as we inhale.
External breath is always in relation to the whole atmosphere of the planet. Lung tissue is moved passively, and thrives on not being forced.
On an inhale, lungs are sucked into expansion by the pleura attached to the expanding chest cavity, with the outer parietal layer pulling the inner visceral layer with it by vacuum.
The greatest room for lung expansion is toward the lowest border of the ribs. The pleura attach to this border much lower than the bottom edge of the lungs.
Air pressure pushes in all directions at once, so lung tissue expands in all directions on inhales.
Each lung is divided into lobes to facilitate ease of movement. The left lung has only two lobes, making it slightly stiffer than the right so that it can better support the moving heart (the strongest movements of the heart are the furthest left). The right lung has three lobes.
Lung lobes are wrapped in visceral pleura designed to slide against all surfaces contacted by it. This works as long as the surfaces don’t stick to each other. Fascial lung adhesions are a major source of chronic misalignment or scoliosis.
The lower lung lobes naturally expand back and downward toward the lower ribs, diaphragm and lower organs. The middle lobe (and the lower portion of the left upper lobe) naturally expands laterally toward the side-lifting ribs. The upper lobes naturally expand upward underneath a moveable shoulder girdle.
The movement of an easy breath ripples through the entire body. Stiffness anywhere in the body can restrict breathing.
As mammals we have large oxygen-hungry brains. To supply us with enough oxygen, nature has made us more eager to inhale and more prone to excitement than reptiles are. Our excitability can be balanced by practicing longer exhales and by social engagement. Talking achieves both.
Our brains and bone marrow are two of our biggest users of oxygen. Overusing our brains deprives our marrow and blood cell production of needed resources, draining our energy. Resting our brains restores our resilience.
© Erik Bendix, 2019