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A woman doing breathing exercise in lotus pose at a yoga class. Image Credit: Getty Images

Dubai: Nothing comes more naturally to us than our breathing. But as the Dubai Fitness Challenge progresses full steam, fitness experts, even doctors, are reminding us there’s a pressing need to unlearn what we take for granted, so we can clear the path for a whiff of fresh air.

Some call it a science, others an art, but breathing right is at the root of all wellness regimes, whether it is meditation and yoga or resistance training and endurance.

Australian expat and fitness icon Eva Clarke, who holds 15 Guinness World records that are fitness-related, said: “Breathing techniques are very important to get into the rhythm, so the body can get enough oxygen.”

Eva Clarke
Eva Clarke holds 15 fitness-related Guinness World records. Image Credit: Supplied

She practises Brazilian jiu-jitsu, resistance training and endurance events, all of which require that she is aware of her breathing and is able to regulate it.

Even regimes like aqua aerobics and pilates work towards building lung capacity. “Our aqua aerobics classes are run in an outdoor infinity pool, so we get a lot of fresh air. In our cardio workouts, we use our lung capacity to the maximum,” she said

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In yoga, pranayama is taught as a formal discipline to control breathing, which is the source of ‘prana’ or the vital life force.

Manal Karrera, award-winning Egyptian instructor with the International Association of Human Values (IAHV), known for its breath workshops in conflict zones, said: “Good breathing is a major component of good health, yet many of us spend our lives taking shallow breaths that only increase our stress levels. Few realise that breath is a bodily function that we can consciously control.”

Manal Karrera
Manal Karrera is an award-winning Egyptian yoga instructor. Image Credit: Supplied

Best tool to remove toxins

She added: “The breath is such an effective tool that it can help remove 80 per cent of emotional and material toxins from the body. But most of us only use 35 per cent of our lung capacity and do not harness its potential to detoxify and transform ourselves.”

Giving her own example, she said a road accident left her with a permanent brain damage, as a result of which her concentration powers were greatly reduced, but regular yoga and breathing practices helped improve her brain function.

“Just as our feelings, thoughts and emotions influence how we breathe, how we breathe can influence and affect our thoughts and feelings. So breathing right can actually help us come out of depression, anxiety and stress,” she said.

The premise is supported by medicine.

Dr Sweta Adatia, specialist neurologist at RAK hospital and RAK Diabetes Centre, Dubai, said breathing correctly helps activate the vagus nerve, a long and wandering nerve that connects the brain stem to vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. It also links the neck, ears and tongue to the brain.

Dr Sweta Adatia
Dr Sweta Adatia Image Credit: RAK Hospital

She said: “A well-toned vagus nerve helps to regulate blood pressure, glucose levels, digestion and automatic responses. Crucially, the vagus nerve is the power source of the parasympathetic nervous system [PNS] and it is a fundamental part of a healthy gut. In the brain, the vagus nerve helps mood and controls anxiety and depression.”

She said among the many ways of increasing the vagal tone and modulation, focus on the breath is very effective. “This is what yoga and meditation teach us — to watch our breath and control it. Just a few minutes of deep inhalation and exhalation every morning are enough to utilise the diaphgram and lungs for breathing.”