By Tracey Stover
Bear with me as I weave an inspiring tale about the miracle of you and your body.
Books are overflowing with strange stories of ordinary people achieving extraordinary feats of self-healing, endurance, and dignity, in the face of extreme harshness. When we are committed – passionate – we source from deep within, and transform the impossible into the possible.
Every one of us is talented, as the divine dances through us; we all have something to express. While some are more obscured than others, we all can make more aligned choices that put us on the path with our true nature. So, how do we start on this path of extraordinariness? Great question.
Having provided breath sessions for 20-plus years, I have watched many ordinary folks roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work of cleaning the inner house. This is the foundation of extraordinariness. Yes, it begins with ourselves.
It is astonishing how many folks pay more attention to their cars than they do to their own bodies. A car has to be consistently gassed, cleaned, and fixed. How many of us give as much attention to the quality of food we eat, how well we are hydrated, and whether we get enough exercise? Your body is your personal vehicle, and the most important thing you have. In a world engineered to distract us, be careful not to be lulled into acquiescence.
For starters, nature has given us all we need, from food to medicine. An approach I use to diagnose my personal well-being is to consider the five pillars of health. These are oxygen, hydration, nutrition, exercise, and meditation (or more deeply, mind). Each pillar relies upon the others to maintain their subtle dynamic balance. Knowing the symptoms of each, one can determine the imbalance that exists. Today, let’s cover the pillar of oxygen.
Oxygen is life for the body. Consider the multiple ways, in addition to breathing, that the body takes in oxygen. Oxygen is absorbed from the water we drink – is your water really clean? Oxygen is absorbed through raw, whole foods – how many of your meals are cooked and processed? We increase oxygen intake when we exercise – how often do you get your heart rate up?
The breath is the doorway between body and mind; the breath literally traverses between the outer and inner body. Oxygen is truly our elixir.
The quality of your breath determines the quality of your life. An in-depth, longitudinal research program called the Framingham Study, started in 1948 and ongoing today, began as cardiovascular research. The investigators discovered that the greatest contributor to life was not diet, exercise, or even genetics – it was lung capacity. We could be 80 years old with the lungs of a 20-year-old. Or we could have lungs atrophied from diminished use over 80 years; this is the vast majority of people.
No, you do not have to run a marathon every week. Quite the contrary. The Framingham Study found that short bursts, like 10 minutes, of increased heart rate activity, improved lung capacity. The key to a long life is to keep lung elasticity vital over time.
Choosing a life that is extraordinary begins by listening to your body. Oxygen is our primary fuel, so we want to know the quality of our breathing and assess the state of our lungs. Listening means knowing the difference between pain and tightness. Whatever exercise you do, be gentle and consistent, and include short bursts of increased activity to help expand lung capacity. A little each day revitalizes and transforms the body.
Some ways I support my lungs are to take regular walks over rough terrain – walking in the woods, hiking, swimming in natural settings, bouncing on a rebounder, dancing, yoga, breath exercises. Mix it up, and be sure to have fun!
Here is a simple exercise to expand your breath capacity, called “Box Breathing.” Breathe in for 4 counts – hold for 4 counts on the inhale – exhale for 4 counts – hold for 4 counts on the exhale. You can increase the count to 5, 6, and so on, according to what is comfortable.
Remember, your body is magnificent, with incredible capacity for the extraordinary. As the author of your life, what are you choosing? What are you becoming?