Re: Deep Breathing and its meaning
One of the things this type of breathing does is oxygenate the blood to a high degree. This seems similar to hyperbaric therapy, where a patient is put in a hyperbaric (pressure) chamber and given pure oxygen. It's used for treating open wounds that do not normally heal. It's also used for patients who are facing surgery. Doctors have discovered the patients recover quicker from surgery if they have this treatment first. Traditionally hyperbaric chambers have been used for divers who are suffering from the "bends", caused by coming up too fast from the ocean.
From Ki A Practical Guide for Westerners by William Reed, pg.63
"The ancient Chinese assumed that Ki entered the body through the breath, and flowed in the blood. They called this energy Kiketsu, using the characters for Ki and blood. Oketsu, meaning dirty or polluted blood, was considered to be the source of all disease. Modern medicine uses a variety of blood tests to diagnose the health of the entire body, and the presence of many specific diseases. It is common knowledge that blood is the vehicle for oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies for every cell in the body.
Yet the average person is almost literally starving for Ki at the cellular level. The reason is very simple: inadequate and shallow breathing; caused by a lack of mind and body unification. The average person takes about 16 to 20 breaths per minute; filling the lungs to about 400 cubic centimeters capacity. Yet in Ki breathing only one breath is taken per minute; filling the lungs to between 5,000 and 8,000 cubic centimeters capacity. Breathing in this way, eighteen times slower and at twelve to twenty times the capacity, an ample supply of oxygen and subsequent release of carbon dioxide is almost guaranteed.
In a square millimeter of subcutaneous tissue there are nearly 2,000 capillaries, all of which are open and circulating blood during Ki breathing, hard labor, and active sports. Yet in a state of rest, typically only about 5 of these capillaries contain blood, far less than one percent of capacity. "State of rest" is really a misnomer, because for most people this involves a state of literal collapsation; where the larger muscles may be in a state of flaccidity, but the deeper tissues are riddled with tension, due to inadequate support and poor distribution of the weight of the body. The diameter of a red blood cell is about four times that of a capillary, so that it must be squeezed though the thousands of miles of these micro-passages. All of this is accomplished quite naturally under hydraulic pressure, making one complete cycle around the body in little more than 20 seconds. In order to full oxygenate and detoxify the blood, each inhalation should require at least 25 seconds, with the same amount of time for each exhalation, or about one breath per minute. Not only do most of us breathe at a fraction of the time and capacity ideally needed to clean the blood, but unclean air also contains pollutants which may hinder respiration even further.
In Japanese the word naga-iki can be used synonymously to mean long breath and long life. An ancient story admonishes us that the number of breaths we may draw in our lifetime is pre-established; and that we should not use them up so quickly. When the mind or body are disturbed by anxiety or 'disease,' it is always reflected in shallow, inadequate breathing.
But it is not enough to simply fill the lungs to capacity through deep abdominal breathing. If the capillaries are largely closed off due to excess tension, then deep breathing has little meaning. The very effort to gulp massive amounts of air can cause the entire body to become tense. Some Oriental disciplines describe elaborate ways of "circulating" the Ki, especially as you hold your breath. This is poor advice, because holding the breath restricts the flow of Ki and introduces excess tension into the body. Ki circulates naturally when the mind and body are unified. In that natural state deep breathing has profound effect, serving to both calm the mind and clean the blood."