breathing: Anthony Abbagnano on the importance of breath

Breathing – it’s the most natural thing we can do. So, what is so significant about it and what more is there to learn? Ahead of his weekend of workshops on 12th and 13th April, breath work expert Anthony Abbagnano tells us more about this simple action that can have such a transformative effect on our lives.

From the first inhale at birth to the last exhale at death, every breath in between is regulated by the innate wisdom of the body and is activated by a trigger response in the brain, in a part known as the medulla oblongata. It’s the one physiological internal function of the body that we have control over and can self-regulate.

The inhalation of a breath is first stimulated by a natural bodily occurrence – the fluctuating balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood. As carbon dioxide builds in our cells, our bodies need to make sure it gets flushed out before it reaches toxic levels. Specific chemo-receptors in the body alert the brain and send an impulse that forces the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles surrounding the ribs to contract. This then forces us to inhale deeply, taking in more oxygen, which in turn triggers a process of self-regulating the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen. This balance is vital for cellular vitality and blood health. As air rushes into the lungs, the brain stops its ‘alert’ signal and the diaphragm and ribs relax. And so it goes on breath after breath.

Despite this innate response, most of us do not take in anywhere near our lung capacity – less than 20% on average – nor do we fully and completely exhale the waste air that will remain in the lungs if we are perpetually shallow breathing.

The maximum volume of air that can move through our lungs is known as our vital capacity, and by breathing deeply, most of us can reach a volume of around 3,100 ml. However, on average, people inhale and exhale a total of 500 ml of air with each breath, way below our capacity.

The study and practice of breath work can have a huge effect on our well-being and, with immediate effect, can help us to:

–  Reduce anxiety and tension
–  Eliminate stress
–  Eliminate toxins from the body
–  Improve health and digestion
–  Experience better sleep
–  Become more mindful of our own personal triggers and potential
–  Feel more peaceful and content and more at home in our own skin.

When we bring our full awareness into what is seemingly such a simple physical act, we create the space for healing. That’s when we really can fully experience the true nature of inspiration.

Anthony Abbagnano is the founder of Alchemy of Breath, a system of breathing practices that restore self-awareness, love and compassion. For the chance to learn more, join him for his introduction to breath work workshop on 12th April or his alchemy of breath day event on 13th April. Click here to find out more and book.

For more on the Alchemy of Breath, visit:

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