Nurturing Breath with Nutrition

Undeniably, our breath holds our lifeforce. Every anatomical system depends on oxygenation, and the physical movement of our lungs propels parts of our lymphatic, nervous, and digestive system. In traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine, breath is linked to qi, an essential lifeforce and vital animating energy. In Hindu and Indian philosophy and medicine, including yogic philosophy, we that force is prana, and when we work with it using the breath, pranayama.

In the West, breath symbolizes peace and calm, but also the flow of some vital energy: when a person ceases to breathe they cease to live. When our lungs stop working and a human needs “life support,” a knell has rung. We should care for it as such.

Many of us in Western nations understand basic nutrition for digestive, muscular, skeletal, and cardiovascular health, but know very little about nurturing our lungs, the enablers of vital energy. In addition to obvious lifestyle changes like avoiding cigarettes (and inhalation of most things, including vaping and marijuana smoke), we can nurture our breath through thoughtful nutrition:

How to eat to treat your lungs

  1. Eat whole and organic as much as possible. This advice rings true for most nutritional needs, and if you adopt Michael Pollan’s great-great grandmother rule, the latter suggestions will fall in line. But let’s be real: whole and organic foods aren’t accessible to everyone all the time, and certainly aren’t always what we crave. I invite you to see where you can and find a happy place between a whole food lifestyle (not diet) and serving your social, emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical needs.
  • Increase antioxidants without falling into the processed food trap. Be critical in the grocery store: does it make sense to get antioxidants from the chocolate-covered blueberries that using antioxidants as a marketing tool, or from eating what you know to be full of unaltered nutrients? That’s not to say you can’t buy both: you  do you, boo. But be aware you’ll find better antioxidant content in whole, unaltered foods like dark & red berries, dark green veggies, whole grains, orange vegetables, and unsalted nuts, especially walnuts and Brazil nuts.
  • Avoid additives and preservatives such as aspartame, benzoates, nitrates & nitrites, parabens, and sulfites. Look for these where least expected: we all know Diet Coke has aspartame, but have you checked your meats for nitrites?
  • Reduce mucus & inflammation by drawing awareness to the caffeine and alcohol you ingest. Many of us identify as social drinkers or healthy coffee consumers, but I invite you to track those habits for a week. It may be more than you imagined! 

In short, a combination of intuitive and informed eating can keep our lungs thriving from healthy nutrition. In addition to nurturing with nutrition, try one of these breathing exercises to fully harness your life force!

Or, book an appointment with Lauren to learn the breath and body work that works best for you (from the drop-down menu, select private yoga instruction).

A fellow educator from Austin, TX demonstrates a square breathing exercise, which can be easy to deploy in situations when you don’t have much time or space.
Adriene Mischler, another Austinite and former educator, introduces a variety of breathing exercises in this pranayama video playlist.
Buteyko Breathing is commonly used to relieve asthma and other respiratory dilemmas.

Thank you for taking care of yourself. See you out there!

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