When it comes to taking care of your body and mind, it’s important to consider all aspects of your life. Yes, nutrition and exercise are crucial to health. But you should also think about your quality of sleep, job satisfaction, relationships, the air you breathe, and so much more.
This holistic approach to wellness is what we at the IAWP call the Wellness 360 wheel. Our students learn about how to balance health, wellness, and well-being through working in each of the elements that make up this wheel.
One of these important elements is Air. Let’s dive into learning about this element and how you can balance out your wellness in regards to this special aspect of wellness.
Importance of the Air Element
We have included the element of Air as part of the Wellness 360 wheel for many reasons. At the most basic level, our body is alive because of the air we breathe in. It’s literally our life force and the element that makes it possible for all the cells in our body to thrive.
The air you breathe contains a lot of oxygen, which is an essential element for life. Every one of your cells needs it in order to carry out their functions and keep you moving. When you breathe in, air moves into your lungs, then oxygen travels to all the places it needs to go through the bloodstream.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to air, however. When analyzing this element, we should consider the quality of the air and how our environment affects our breath and our health. There are a lot of different perspectives to consider when thinking about the element of Air.
Understanding the Air Element
The element of Air focuses on the actual air coming into our lungs when we breathe in. Since air is such a vital part of our life force, it’s important to consider the quality as it will affect our physical health. Improving our wellness isn’t complete until we’ve addressed the ways in which we take in air.
Air as Nature and Outdoors
As a Wellness 360 element, Air also represents the air outside and nature. This includes our environment and how we treat it. That includes how the environment impacts our air quality, which then affects our health. An environment that is treated poorly and has become unhealthy will have negative effects on our health. On the flip side, when we lovingly care for our environments, it can have a hugely positive effect on our mental and physical health.
A significant part of the element Air and our environment includes the phenomenon of air pollution. Our modern cities are constantly churning out pollutants that get into the water, soil, and air. When we are exposed to air pollution for any length of time, it can harm our respiratory system, lungs, and cardiovascular system (our heart). Long exposures to pollution can lead to serious diseases and health effects that can be devastating.
Beyond our health, this element includes considering how we even personally interact with nature and outdoor environments. It includes how we respect, honor, and care for it, as well as enjoy and participate in it.
Air as Indoor Environment
Your indoor environment is also really important. The air quality of our homes has a huge impact on the air we breathe in and our overall physical health. Our homes are our safe havens, away from the outdoor environments that surround us. The quality of the air we take in within our homes is an important consideration when balancing wellness and health.
Air as Breath
In the IAWP’s concept of Wellness 360, we take special care to pay attention to the way we breathe. While the quality of the air you breathe in is super important, it’s also crucial to consider how you are actually doing the physical breathing.
Most people breathe in using just their upper chest, taking in very short and shallow breaths. For ultimate health, we need to be breathing in deeper ways. Air should move in your nose, down into your lungs, filling up so fully that your belly rises. It should then make its way back out, leaving through your nose or mouth fully. Intentional breathing brings in the most efficient levels of oxygen, bringing vitality and true oxygenation to every cell in the body.
In many traditions, the breath is considered the life force of the body. Learning how to breathe properly impacts our well-being at a deep level. Deep breathing helps to calm our nervous system, and slower breathing can de-escalate panic and anxiety.
Air is a vital element in our lives.
IAWP Student Feature
Neshama Mousseeau, IAWP Certified Wellness Coach, teaches her coaching clients to practice alternate nostril breathing. “Breathing is so important for our nervous systems but we don’t always breathe properly. Alternate nostril breathing helps my clients to relax the body and mind, reduce anxiety and lower their stress.”
Balancing Your Air Element
If you’re ready to pay special attention to your Air element to deepen your wellness practice, there are several things you can do. Remember that the Air element includes the air you take in (both indoor and outdoor), the physical way that you breathe, and the way you interact with nature. Creating rituals and practices around these aspects of the element can help you feel more grounded, well, and at peace.
1. Practice deep breathing or alternate nostril breathing.
You can do this as part of your mindfulness practice. Try several styles of deep breathing to find what works well for you. Deep breathing exercises can include something like slowly inhaling to a count of five, pause, then slowly exhaling to a count of five. Then repeat.
Alternate nostril breathing involves using your finger and thumb to alternately block off one nostril. For example, inhale slowly through your right nostril, close it off with your thumb, pause briefly, then exhale through the left nostril. Switch sides and repeat. You can cycle this 5 or 10 times.
2. Notice when you are holding your breath or not deep breathing.
Start getting more grounded in your body by paying attention to your breathing. Do you often hold your breath in a moment of stress? Every so often, look down to see how you are breathing. If your chest is rising, try slowing down your breathing and go deeper into your belly. It doesn’t need to take more than a minute to redirect your breathing practice, but it can have a huge impact.
3. Get outside in the fresh air regularly, including taking breaks from your desk and work.
It’s easy to start working, get sucked in, then look up and realize hours have passed without you moving. Make a commitment to get up from your desk at regular intervals. Stretch, do some deep breathing, but even more importantly get out in the fresh air. Find an area with clean air, then close your eyes and practice a few deep, slow breaths. It will calm down your nervous system, oxygenate your brain, and make you feel ready to tackle work from a more balanced place again.
4. Consider getting an air purifier for your home and office.
Our indoor air can be full of toxins and pollutants, leading our lungs to deal with compromised quality of air. You can make it easier on your body to breathe by getting an air purifier for your home. Take it to the next level by also setting one up in your office space. You’ll relieve your body of having to constantly detoxify what it’s breathing, leaving it more energy to do other things.
5. Do a Wellness 360 check.
From the perspective of the element of Air, consider the other elements on the Wellness 360 wheel. Are any of your other elements out of balance? Consider how those elements might be impacting your Air element.
For example, if you’re really stressed at work, you might find yourself taking short, shallow breaths that aren’t fully oxygenating your body. Try to find ways to decrease the stressors at work so you can feel more balanced and calm. This can include practices mentioned above, such as mindful deep breathing exercises.
Helping Others with the Air Element
Now that you know how to balance the air element for yourself, you can help others in your life to also find more balance. You can inspire others to breathe better, care more for nature, and improve the air quality around them.
Interested in doing this as a career? You might enjoy becoming a Holistic Health & Wellness Coach with the IAWP! You can find out more on what this career entails and how to get started by clicking here.