CHAPTER XIV. BREATHING.
The function of breathing is a vital one, and it immediately concerns
the continuance of life. We can live many hours without sleeping, and
many days without eating or drinking, but only a few minutes without
breathing. The act of breathing is involuntary, but the manner of it,
and the provision of the proper conditions for its healthy performance,
falls within the scope of volition. Man will continue to breathe
involuntarily, but he can voluntarily determine what he shall breathe,
and how deeply and thoroughly he shall breathe; and he can, of his own
volition, keep the physical mechanism in condition for the perfect
performance of the function.
It is essential, if you wish to breathe in a perfectly healthy way,
that the physical machinery used in the act should be kept in good
condition. You must keep your spine moderately straight, and the muscles
of your chest must be flexible and free in action. You cannot breathe in
the right way if your shoulders are greatly stooped forward and your
chest hollow and rigid. Sitting or standing at work in a slightly
stooping position tends to produce hollow chest; so does lifting heavy
weights--or light weights.
The tendency of work, of almost all kinds, is to pull the shoulders
forward, curve the spine, and flatten the chest; and if the chest is
greatly flattened, full and deep breathing becomes impossible, and
perfect health is out of the question.
Various gymnastic exercises have been devised to counteract the effect
of stooping while at work; such as hanging by the hands from a swing or
trapeze bar, or sitting on a chair with the feet under some heavy
article of furniture and bending backward until the head touches the
floor, and so on. All these are good enough in their way, but very few
people will follow them long enough and regularly enough to accomplish
any real gain in physique. The taking of "health exercises" of any kind
is burdensome and unnecessary; there is a more natural, simpler, and
much better way.
This better way is to keep yourself straight, and to breathe deeply. Let
your mental conception of yourself be that you are a perfectly straight
person, and whenever the matter comes to your mind, be sure that you
instantly expand your chest, throw back your shoulders, and "straighten
up." Whenever you do this, slowly draw in your breath until you fill
your lungs to their utmost capacity; "crowd in" all the air you possibly
can; and while holding it for an instant in the lungs, throw your
shoulders still further back, and stretch your chest; at the same time
try to pull your spine forward between the shoulders. Then let the air
This is the one great exercise for keeping the chest full, flexible, and
in good condition. Straighten up; fill your lungs FULL; stretch your
chest and straighten your spine, and exhale easily. And this exercise
you must repeat, in season and out of season, at all times and in all
places, until you form a habit of doing it; you can easily do so.
Whenever you step out of doors into the fresh, pure air, BREATHE. When
you are at work, and think of yourself and your position, BREATHE. When
you are in company, and are reminded of the matter, BREATHE. When you
are awake in the night, BREATHE. No matter where you are or what you are
doing, whenever the idea comes to your mind, straighten up and BREATHE.
If you walk to and from your work, take the exercise all the way; it
will soon become a delight to you; you will keep it up, not for the
sake of health, but as a matter of pleasure.
Do not consider this a "health exercise"; _never take health exercises,
or do gymnastics to make you well. To do so is to recognize sickness as
a present fact or as a possibility, which is precisely what you must not
do_. The people who are always taking exercises for their health are
always thinking about being sick. It ought to be a matter of pride with
you to keep your spine straight and strong; as much so as it is to keep
your face clean. Keep your spine straight, and your chest full and
flexible for the same reason that you keep your hands clean and your
nails manicured; because it is slovenly to do otherwise. Do it without a
thought of sickness, present or possible. You must either be crooked and
unsightly, or you must be straight; and if you are straight your
breathing will take care of itself. You will find the matter of health
exercises referred to again in a future chapter.
It is essential, however, that you should breathe AIR. It appears to be
the intention of nature that the lungs should receive air containing its
regular percentage of oxygen, and not greatly contaminated by other
gases, or by filth of any kind. Do not allow yourself to think that you
are compelled to live or work where the air is not fit to breathe. If
your house cannot be properly ventilated, move; and if you are employed
where the air is bad, get another job; you can, by practicing the
methods given in the preceding volume of this series--"THE SCIENCE OF
GETTING RICH." If no one would consent to work in bad air, employers
would speedily see to it that all work rooms were properly ventilated.
The worst air is that from which the oxygen has been exhausted by
breathing; as that of churches and theaters where crowds of people
congregate, and the outlet and supply of air are poor. Next to this is
air containing other gases than oxygen and hydrogen--sewer gas, and the
effluvium from decaying things. Air that is heavily charged with dust or
particles of organic matter may be endured better than any of these.
Small particles of organic matter other than food are generally thrown
off from the lungs; but gases go into the blood.
I speak advisedly when I say "other than food." Air is largely a food.
It is the most thoroughly alive thing we take into the body. Every
breath carries in millions of microbes, many of which are assimilated.
The odors from earth, grass, tree, flower, plant, and from cooking foods
are foods in themselves; they are minute particles of the substances
from which they come, and are often so attenuated that they pass
directly from the lungs into the blood, and are assimilated without
digestion. And the atmosphere is permeated with the One Original
Substance, which is life itself. Consciously recognize this whenever
you think of your breathing, and think that you are breathing in life;
you really are, and conscious recognition helps the process. See to it
that you do not breathe air containing poisonous gases, and that you do
not rebreathe the air which has been used by yourself or others.
That is all there is to the matter of breathing correctly. Keep your
spine straight and your chest flexible, and breathe pure air,
recognizing with thankfulness the fact that you breathe in the Eternal
Life. That is not difficult; and beyond these things give little thought
to your breathing except to thank God that you have learned how to do it