By Dr Untung ‘Lakie’ Laksito
How time flies when you are having a good time. We are already in the midst of autumn and summer has well and truly gone.
Many of us have probably forgotten those stinking hot days now that we have pleasant bright autumn days – what a breath of fresh air!
We are still on words beginning with the letter B in the Prof Afferbeck Lauder’s scheme of things.
Well, a breath of fresh air started me thinking. Breath – or breathing to be more specific.
We employ breathing a lot in our relaxation class. In fact, breathing is one of the fundamental activities in our exercise.
You may recall the ABC – B is for breathing, while A and C are for Attitude and Creative Imagination.
Breathing exercise is nothing new in relaxation. It has been used by yogis and others who meditate for thousands of years.
So what is so special about breathing? What has it got to do with relaxation and how does it work? After all, we breathe all the time. What is the big deal?
Those of you who are believers would recognise this passage, “and the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
You don’t need much imagination to appreciate the above, after all that’s what you do when you resuscitate an unconscious person. You do literally breathe life into that person!
Indeed all living creatures need to breathe to stay alive. Whether you capture what I call “the life essence” from the air or from the water (for water and marine creatures) we all need to get that from somewhere.
So let’s talk about breathing. I’ll begin talking about the physical, the anatomy, mechanics, physiology, neurophysiology.
In our case, in human beings, the aim of breathing is to get oxygen into our system. Some creatures need carbon dioxide (CO2) and yet others gaseous sulphur to sustain their life.
The other aim of breathing is to get rid of the byproduct or waste produce – the spent air – which is CO2.
We breathe using our respiratory system, which consists of our lungs and the associated paraphernalia which I’ll mention as we go along. The lunch, windpipe, throat, nasal passages can be viewed as one unit.
We can look at the whole thing as a bellow, or even as a big balloon. If you put a balloon in a vacuum but left the opening out in the open air, the balloon will suck in the outside air.
And that is how we enjoy a breath of fresh air in Autumn.
So what about the vacuum container? Our chest or thorax is the container that provides the vacuum, which I will explain later.
The above describes the act of breathing in, or inspiration. The opposite of inspiration is expiration or breathing out.
In expiration the unit acts like a bellow. When you squeeze a bellow, the air has to go somewhere. And that somewhere is out – in our case, through the nostrils or mouth.
How does the chest do this balloon or bellow thing? For descriptive purposes, the thorax can be described as a truncated cone, but with the top being rounded off.
On the back we have a solid, almost inflexible wall consisting of the spine and the related musculature, which continues as the back wall of the abdomen (belly).
The front wall is the brisket, which is the sternum and association costal cartilages and their mechanisms. The brisket is connected to the back wall by the sidewalls, each consisting of the ribs and their muscles. Think of spare ribs!
Now, forming the floor of the cone is the diaphragm, which is a “flat” muscle (skirt steak).
I say flat, because in life it is like a dome or an upturned bowl. Except for the backwall, all other parts of the chest (thorax) can move. Yes, they are actually moving all the time, whenever you breathe.
As they move, they alter the shape and more importantly the size or volume of the truncated cone which is of course our chest.
As the chest alters, becoming bigger or smaller, it acts like a balloon or a bellow and bingo, we breathe!
Now that’s the simple half about breathing. I’ll deal with the other half in the next column. In the mean time, enjoy the beauty of autumn, savor the breath of fresh air, appreciate the refreshing and invigorating life essence.
As a wise man would say, “carpe diem!” or seize the day.
Lakie’s free relaxation classes are held at 2pm each Wednesday in the Octec building.