Forget all of the anti-aging creams, botox, and plastic surgery. The real secret to anti-aging is all around you and best of all – IT’S FREE! But first, we have to understand the process of aging.
Aging, at it simplest level, is caused by oxygen (O2). That’s right the element that is the third most abundant by mass on the planet is the problem. Oxygen is highly corrosive and is the catalyst that causes iron to rust, fire to burn, and living cells to die. And worst yet, the stuff is everywhere!
Proteins, carbohydrates and fats all contain oxygen, as do our teeth and bones. Even our water is made of the stuff (H2O). In fact, chemists characterize water is oxidized hydrogen! Oxidation is the process that causes the slow corrosion of iron that results in rust. Fire is described as “rapid oxidation” of a fuel. Aging in humans is the result of free-radical production from the oxidation of the chemicals in our body.
Pure oxygen is toxic and living beings can overdose on it when breathing it at high pressures. That’s why scuba divers use different mixtures of breathing air that is delivered at appropriate pressures for the depth of the dive to avoid oxygen toxicity.
So if oxygen causes aging, it stands to reason that if you hold your breath, you’ll live forever. Well, this paradox proves to me that the universe and its creator has a sense of humor. The thing that will ultimately result in our death is the same thing that gives us life! All living things on this planet are destined to die as the result of living. So let’s embrace that fact and rust away with enthusiasm.
The key to aging well is to actually breathe. How we breathe is important. Many people are “shallow breathers”. This means that they don’t fully inflate their lungs during inhalation. When you see these people breathe, you see their shoulders rise. Since they are only inflating the top part of their lungs, half of their lung capacity is not being utilized.
Air enters the lungs because of the negative pressure created by the diaphragm muscle at the base of the rib cage. In order to fully inflate the lungs, the diaphragm must pull down and displace the abdominal organs like the stomach and intestines forcing them outward. In a proper breath, the belly expands and the shoulders stay steady. Try it both ways and you’ll feel the difference.
Breathing fully helps stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system which triggers the endocrine system to release hormones that reverses the state of heightened stress. Stress is a major factor in all disease in the body. By simply regulating your stress levels, you can achieve greater wellness which will impact how well you age.
This is because the body has natural processes which reverse the oxidation effects of oxygen. Enzymes in the body create other chemical reactions the help to repair the damage created by this free-radical oxidation. But the effectiveness of these processes are reduced when the body is in a heightened stress condition that occurs in the normal western lifestyle.
This is why stress reduction modalities like massage, yoga, tai chi and meditation that focus on breathing and stress reduction can improve your longevity. The bottom line is to breathe. Breathe deeply for longer life and live deeply while you breathe – because living is intended to be our cause of death.