Now Try Something Extraordinary
Take a deep breath.
Count to ten.
Let the breath out.
Now, it probably doesn't feel like you've just completed an exceptional feat.
But holding your breath is a very unusual ability in land-living mammals.
Strangely, we humans are the only ones who can do this.
All other terrestrial mammals are on automatic so they can't stop their breathing even for a moment.
The ability to hold a breath is necessary for aquatic animals as it enables them to go under water. The mystery is, how did us earthbound humans acquire it?
One controversial idea (the Aquatic Ape Theory) that suggests our species has this capacity because we lived on the shoreline at some early stage of our development. This makes sense as we are still pretty keen on beaches!
However it came about there are some interesting side-effects to this breath holding-talent. With it comes conscious breath control, a powerful tool with many uses:
Relaxation: deep yoga style breathing lowers muscle tension and calms the mind.
Pain control: Exercising the ribs and diaphragm during deep slow breaths stretches and mobilises the thorax, neck and shoulders.
Reducing Anxiety: Slow deep breathing tones down the fight-or-flight system
Better Immunity: Vim Hoff has developed a breathing technique that has been shown in clinical trials to boost the immune system
So working on your breathing can do a lot to make you feel better.