We run up subway steps, sit in parks watching the world pass by, laugh loudly, or sit still, sometimes in loneliness. We notice the sounds of strangers' children, the warmth of navy blue jackets in winter time, and the shivering of gloveless hands. To live, we breath. Most of the time, we breath without even thinking about it, not noticing if it's happening fast or slow, if we're taking deep or shallow inhales and exhales.
Does breathing change throughout these experiences? Do our bodies respond to the outside world, to circumstance, to emotion? Does stress matter? How much? Can stress affect breathing? Can being sick affect breathing? Do different parts of the body communicate with one another?
Physiology says yes. The lungs sit protected in the ribcage, surrounded by connective tissue, muscles, innervated by nerves, fed with blood vessels. They speak to the cardiovascular system through alveoli, which exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen-containing capillaries.
The musculoskeletal system is also involved in breathing. There are primary muscles of breathing that always participate in inhalation, like the diaphragm, and secondary muscles , like the intercostals, sternocleidomastoid, and in the case of the exhalation, the abdominal muscles, that only participate when the body in respiratory distress like in asthma, other lung conditions, exercise.
Now we are taking the F to Coney Island in the middle of autumn to see the ocean. There is room to sit and it's Saturday. We notice our chests rising and falling, we pass by red leaves, violins play games in our headphones, and we don't have a care in the world. Muscles are moving, blood and lung tissues are collaborating, the respiratory centers in the brain are evaluating blood pH to make sure our bodies remember to inhale.
Basically, breathing is an integrated process involving many separate organ systems. Sometimes we're up and the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated; we fully, calmly breath all the way into bellies. And sometimes this strange, emotional, pre-election world can feel out of control and fight or flight mode can kick in and stay there. Then breathing becomes fast and shallow.
We can affect organ systems, our nerves, heart, lungs, by changing our breath and we can affect breath by optimizing the function of the organ systems.