William Lee Howard.

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R A782 H 83 Breathe and be well,




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Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive

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Author of
" Sex Problems in Worry and Work," etc.





^U JUL 1948

Copyright, 1916, bt

All Rights Reserved




Optimism means to me Humanity. To
be impatient with humanity is stupid pessi-
mism. I have no warfare against those
who have neglected their latent physical
forces, but an urgent desire to show them
how to use and conserve these powers and

The general public are not upon familiar
terms with their bodies. They are better
acquainted with diseases than with health.
Poor health, in distinction to disease, is
almost invariably due to lack of under-
standing that the body is a machine which
must have proper fuel for combustion and
its boilers, pipes and exhausts must always
be kept clean — that oxygen must be sup-
plied in sufficient quantity, must burn up
waste material every living minute as well
as supply energy and new living stuff.

The secret is in knowing how to enlarge



the combustion chambers and control intake
and outgo.

The purpose of this little book is to
show how it should and can be done with-
out littering the reader's mind with physio-
logical explanations and technical terms
and details.




I. General Observations upon

Health 3

II. The Morning Fresh Air Cock-
tail — The Nightcap — How to
Breathe Them In . . . . 23

III. The Little Things that Prevent

Proper Breathing .... 45

IV. Snoring — The Causes and Cures 67

V. Breathing for Beauty — Breath-
ing AND Eating .... 81

VI. Breathing Through the Skin

Necessary for Health . . . 100

VII. New Tissues for Old — Rejuven-
ating THE Body and Skin . . 117

VIII. Some Simple Breathing Exercises 139




" Most of the ills which we poor mortals know,
From doctors and imagination flow."


If life is short and art is long, why not
change this by prolonging life through the
art of breathing? A rather mixed epigram,
perhaps, but it has instructive meaning.
One can live longer and live better by know-
ing how to breathe properly; and knowing
how to do this is an art by itself, requiring
patience and practice as well as the riddance
of many antiquated ideas of man's place
and work in this world.

I learned the first principles of the art of

breathing from a pet horse. He is now a

pensioner, living on the best and getting

with me the pure country air. He is near-



ing thirty years, but, with the exception of
faihng sight, is as lithe, handsome and full-
muscled as a youngster.

Not having any jumping or running ex-
ercises he still insists upon filling his lungs
to the full, when let out in the paddock
every morning, rain or shine, snow or storm.
He takes a little gallop, then stops with legs
spread outward and wide apart, lifts his
head and neck until there is no bend or
stricture of the breathing canals, and gives
a loud, whistling snort. This snort empties
his lungs. You can see his big chest con-
tract. He does not then take a deep inhala-
tion, but continues to blow out of his lungs
every bit of stable air. This accomplished,
he commences slowly to take in air until his
chest, veins and arteries fairly swell. His
muscles become rigid, and, with a final roar-
ing snort, the exercise is over for the morn-
ing, and he starts grazing.

I have noticed this trick with all big ani-
mals when released to the open. I have also
seen feeble attempts by those kept most of


the time in close stables and harnessed be-
fore they can open their lungs to their real
capacity. Not being able to start on their
daily work with a purified physical organi-
zation, they soon grow listless and aged be-
fore their allotted time.

Most of us are stabled animals and jump
from our sleeping stalls to put on tight
neckwear or confining waistbands before we
have had a good snort in fresh air and a run
around the paddock.

If a blacksmith pushed down the bellows
only two-thirds of their depth, that is if he
failed to use one-third of their air space, the
coals would fail to give him all their latent
energy. Also, he would have to use more
effort himself and, in the end, would find
left over many half or partly burnt coals,
clogging ashes. And, unless he was aware
of the real cause, he would put the blame
upon the fuel.

The same conditions are true of the steam
engine. Its drafts — bellows — must be given
full opportunity to throw air into the fuel;



get all possible energy out of it and leave
only fine ashes. If these conditions do not
prevail, potential energy is dissipated, fire-
boxes become clogged and pipes and boilers
lined with the by-products of insufficient
combustion. Then come all sorts of trou-
bles; sometimes the intricate machinery is
ruined — goes to the scrap heap.

Many men and women go to the human
scrap heap for similar reasons. They have
not known just how to pump the human
bellows — the lungs ; get energy out of every
ounce of fuel, keep their arteries and veins
clean, kidneys and liver from being poi-
soned by unconsumed material.

Fresh air is the staff of life. No man
or woman can reach the best possible
growth and development if deprived of
fresh air for a few hours every day. One
may live in a room where fresh air con-
stantly circulates, yet not get its benefit
through wrong starts in the morning and
ignorance of the right methods of breath-



We cast off and put on new growths
every minute of our lives. Growing old in
the fifties or sixties is an unnatural state
of affairs. It is a symptom of careless-
ness, or ignorance of the human machine.
Let every cell in the body — and the body
is only an aggregation of differentiated
cells — receive blood purified by oxygen,
and, organic disease being absent, the man
or woman of sixty can keep on renewing
health and energy. Yes; even if at this
age there is a clogging of unburnt stuff;
creaking joints, difficult breathing upon
physical effort, rapid heart-beats; you can
renew somewhat your whole body. You
can clean out the deleterious material and
start afresh.

If you will recall the lives of famous
singers you will be surprised to notice how
long-lived they were, and how full of
energy and charm are those now living
who have passed their threescore. Now,
one of the first things a singer has to learn
is to breathe correctly.


When you attempt to run some distance
there comes a " stitch in the side." It is
a good sign for you if you profit by it.
It is good to exercise to the point of get-
ting that " stitch." What it really means
is that you have discovered a large area of
unused lung cells which you did not know
existed in you. These have remained
closed most of your life, since the passing
of childhood and its games, and are now
opening to receive the fresh air you are
pumping in through extra efforts to

These unused cells are slightly stuck to-
gether and collapsed upon themselves.
The sharp pain is due to the air forcing
them apart. When you keep going and
the distress is over, you get into what, in
sporting terms, is called " second wind."
You are then using all your bellows' ca-
pacity and force. You are burning a lot
of stored-up waste material and also giving
new life to internal organs.

It is not the tall, big-boned individual



who lives the longest and best resists dis-
eases. It is the big-chested, compact man
and woman, for it is equally necessary,
even more important, for the woman to
have big lung space.

About one-third of lung capacity is un-
used by the average person. This third
is the lower portion of the lungs — ^where
you get that " stitch in the side."

The human bellows differs from the me-
chanical in having its leathery covering con-
tain a spongy mass of air cells. Around
these air cells flows the blood. It reaches
every cell open for it. Remember this dis-
tinction — " every cell open for it." All
impurities in the blood are burnt up by the
oxygen sent to it. Then the building
blood is sent by means of the arteries to
every portion, organ and cell in the body.
Upon its return to the lungs by the way of
the veins and right heart, it carries waste
stuff in the form of carbonic acid, which
is thrown off when you exhale your breath.

Right here is where so many breathe



wrongly — they take deep inhalations, but
neglect the absolutely necessary forcible
exhalations. You can do as the horse does
in this matter without the audible snort.
Those who practice deep breathing usually
try to see how full they can inflate the
chest, but not how completely they can
empty it.

In the human machine the burning and
purifying, the cleansing and renewing are
intended to keep the body active and young
from the root of the hairs to the little toe
nail. And in all animals free in the open,
it is an involuntary act and should be so
in man. But too often man's neglect
of his mechanical forces leads to self-de-
struction. If there is any mechanical ob-
struction, such as too tight shoes or garters,
wrong sitting postures, as examples, which
prevents the blood from carrying away dead
material from the toe and replacing it with
new, we have the commencement of death
in the toe. This is true of any part of
the body where there is some interference


or interruption of the blood flow, or what
is better said, of the fresh-air effects of
proper breathing.

This rotting off of an extremity we call
gangrene. Poor or imperfect circulation
is the real cause of this most horrible con-
dition, and imperfect circulation is mostly
due to imperfect breathing, barring the me-
chanical obstructions. To be sure, gan-
grene usually occurs in the aged; aged be-
cause the individuals have not used the full
capacity of their lungs during active life.
The gangrene occurring among wounded
soldiers is quite another matter, although
here its primary cause is mechanical — shot
wounds, allowing the entrance of noxious
gases and germs. In the present world
war it is complicated by the breathing in
of poisonous gases.

But the destruction of extremities and
even internal organs in the aged is due to
the fact that as the years have gone on the
blood has had less and less oxygen to send
to the extremities to burn up the soot clog-



ging the tiny arteries and veins. Yet all
these destroying conditions might have been

The woman who eats rich, nitrogenous
food, is tightly laced and never more than
half breathing, leaves a lot of unburnt fuel
in her system. When attacked by indiges-
tion, and later on finds she has inelastic
arteries — hardening of the arteries — she
blames the food and starts dieting — the
very worst thing she could do.

What such a woman needs is freedom to
breathe way down to the bottom of her
abdomen — " stomach " — allow oxygen to
set fire to the waste material ; release energy
for abdominal muscles to work. Under
these natural conditions she could eat
anything within reason and preserve her

Fashion for women makes the superflu-
ous necessary in clothes, but it also causes
a superfluity of flesh which is an abomina-
tion. To attempt to show how necessary
it is to dress so as to breathe in such a


manner as to keep thin, is like trying to
bore a hole in a cloud.

You can burn off fat by internal com-
bustion. You can keep the flesh firm, and
all your body curves and attractions, by
the habit of proper breathing. Doctors,
diet and distress are kept away by the
woman who uses to the full her breathing
apparatus. The same applies to the over-
fat man.

Most people fail to develop chest ca-
pacity to its fullest extent even through
systematic exercise, because the powerful
pushing muscle of the human bellows is not
developed and kept under voluntary con-
trol when needed.

This muscle is the diaphragm — a big flat
muscle. It forms the floor of the chest
cavity and separates it from the abdominal
cavity. In other words the trunk of the
body is a two-story building. The upper
story is where you really live and keep
your resources; the lower story where you


send down from the living-room all the
used and unneeded things.

Here the janitor and his assistants — in-
testines, liver and other abdominal organs
— sort them out and place them where they

The blood renewed by the air you have
let into the upper apartment, the food
teeth and stomach have mixed and moist-
ened, are also sent down by way of the
arterial and intestinal stairways making
through the diaphragm or the floor separat-
ing the upper and lower apartments.

At rest the diaphragm is dome-shaped
with the curve upward. In this position it
of course decreases the size of the upper
story. In action it works just like the sides
of bellows. When you take a breath it
flattens out and with a full, deep breath it
curves downward. This movement further
increases the chest cavity.

Here is the really important point, es-
pecially for women and for men who have
built on swaying bay-windows: In the


downward push of the diaphragm the ab-
dominal contents are forced ahead of it —
down and forwards. If the muscles of the
abdomen, external and internal, are in good
condition and under voluntary control, they
further press and massage the internal or-
gans. This means good tone to the lower
intestines and this also means avoidance of
constipation. So you see that a well-
developed chest action affects even remote

Breathing so as to inflate the lungs to
the full, is notice to the janitor and his
assistants in your basement to throw out
the ashes and garbage.

In exhaling the whole process is re-
versed. The abdominal muscles contract.
In this movement they push the abdominal
organs against the diaphragm. This latter
muscle rises in the center, thus forcing out-
ward the deleterious air in the lungs.

These facts show you that to breathe and
be well means a lot more than simple in-
spiration and expiration of pure air. The


diaphragm is the muscle to look after, for
it pushes both dead matter out and draws
pure, live matter into the body.

The diaphragm is the midriff of Shake-
speare's time. It has always played its
part in humorous descriptions of bellied
men and laughing, jovial fellows. Like
most parts of the human body it has had
its share in drama and literature, myths
and superstition. Old Melanchthon styles
the laughing muscle Generosum mem-
brum — a generous part. The writers of
the middle ages stated that the man with
small or weak midriff was sour, melan-
cholic; the man with a generous middle
muscle, jovial, gay and long-lived. If
Hamlet had been put through a training of
proper breathing it is probable that the
melancholy Dane might have had some Fal-
staffian traits; big, fatty Lady Macbeth
been free of her optical illusions and de-

The real reasons for these distinctions so
well put by the old writers, is only further


proof that careful observations of men's
moods show that they are governed by
physiologic laws.

The merry man is a laughing man.
Laughter is the best exercise for the
diaphragm; spontaneous, refreshing laugh-
ter. The dour, thin-bellied and small-
chested man gives his midriif no exercise
through pleasing laughter. The court
jesters of old, the professional laugh-maker
today, may be dwarfed, mis-shapen, but he
is big-chested way down to the sides of his
diaphragm. His stories and antics un-
doubtedly saved many men and women
from doctors' lancets and leeches, by forc-
ing them to cast out and burn up waste
material through hearty laughter — which
means that big and strong breathing mus-
cles were unconsciously developed.

The man without a sense of humor can
never utilize his full lung power; hence his .
blood is always short of oxygen, tissues
are underfed, and the resulting effects in-
crease his disagreeable personality.



I knew Mark Twain personally; saw
much of him when he was in his physical
prime. He often loaned his stable loft for
us boys to use as a theater. When he
laughed, or even talked animatedly, you
could see his big midriff heave and take in
large quantities of oxygen. Yet in the
eyes of the ordinary observer Mr. Clemens
was not a large man. But his engine
power was great and this enabled him to
do a tremendous amount of work at an age
when most men are commencing to let up.

It has always been observed that the fat,
stout man is a jolly, laughing chap. But
if you carefully notice these cheerful men
you will see that the stoutness is not that
of over-fatness, pendent abdomens, but
due to big chests and midriffs well sup-
plied with a normal reserve of fat.

Such should be all men of middle and
later life. These well-preserved men and
women have power and space to breathe
correctly. They laugh because oxygen —
the real laughing gas — is a stimulant act-


ing upon a healthy mentality. The flabby,
obtruding abdomen is due to weak and
undeveloped abdominal muscles and dia-
phragm and small chest capacity. In-
dividuals of this sort of physical make-up
are bilious, choleric and disinclined to go
beyond a smile under the most humorous

The average man or woman pays more
attention to the movements of the ribs,
trying to get them to rise and fall with
increasing expansion, than to the develop-
ment of the abdominal muscles. These
muscles are really the pushing force for
the human bellows. Chest exercises are
quite necessary for health and longevity,
but never reach their full beneficial powers
unless the abdominal muscles are equally
developed and kept in the best of con-

Nowadays we are talking and reading a
lot about national preparedness, but what
is of paramount importance is to under-
stand the necessity and value of body


preparedness to keep off the enemies all
around us in the air and food, and to
prevent physical laziness. The danger of
neglecting our defensive weapons and prac-
tice in using them, threatens many other-
wise careful of habits and exercise.

"Before the curing of a strong disease,
Even in the instant of repair and health,
The fit is strongest." — King John, Act II, Sc. 4.

Habits of living, clothing, constitutional
and inherited affections all need under-
standing before explicit details of breathing
can be given. Here, as in many other
things, the trite saying that " what is one
man's poison is another man's food " most
aptly applies. The over-fat, the too lean,
the sedentary and the physically active,
each needs different modes and methods of
learning how to breathe properly. The
girl who works in a shop, the woman in
the factory, the woman of society and the
man in office or on the street, all need to
know how to utilize their wasted and


neglected power for getting and keeping
in perfect condition; living long and work-
ing contentedly.

There are avoidable lassitude, unnecessary-
headaches, sleeplessness, which can be cured
by stopping the cause. Nervous instability
and the craving for stimulants or drugs,
infernal restlessness in the young, are many
times due to the effects of wrong breathing
habits. There are millions of men and
women, children and adolescents who sleep
while the retained poisons of the body go
on injuring nerves, brain and other deli-
cate organs. And all this in spite of the
fact that they sleep with open windows,
believe they have taken in fresh air dur-
ing the day and observed the generally
accepted rules of health.

With the increase of industrial plants in
this country has come an enormous in-
crease of occupational diseases due to the
intake of gaseous and chemical irritants
and poisons. These afflicted and threat-
ened workers need careful instruction and


to be given a knowledge of preparedness
and defense.

There is scarcely a disease that does not
have its enemy in the blood or lymph — an
enemy ready to war and overthrow the host
of disease germs. But unless the roads
and passes are clear and ready to the re-
motest organ or vessel, they cannot do their
allotted work. Just because man has not
kept clean and free the highways and by-
ways in the body for his internal allies
to march over when called, is the cause of
disease. And these highways and byways
for the host of fighting bodies to rush over
only can be kept clear and free by know-
ing how to breathe.




I HAVE frequently watched a trout
breathe as it quietly rested in clear water.
Its breathing is regular, rhythmic, without
effort. He always seeks the waters flowing
over pebbles or coarse sand, as if there was
more oxygen in the little stirrings. Let
your shadow fall upon the water and the
fish is seen to disappear in just one poly-
chromatic flash.

If you have patience — and unless you
have the patience of determination, you
will never learn the secrets of nature — ^you
may see your trout return, but now breath-
ing rapidly and deeply. His gills open
wider and close quicker than before. After
a few moments in his resting pool he will


slowly move up to where there is more
action in the water — air bubbles. Now he
will be seen to breathe deeply, very deeply.
The gills open so you can see the red of his
blood. Slowly he back-paddles until he
again resumes his former place and his
gills commence to open and close in effort-
less motions.

What that trout did was to recover a
normal heart-beat after a fright had caused
it to jump beyond its usual rate. When he
returned to his resting place he found there
had been more blood pumped into his lungs
than oxygen to take care of it. So he
moved up to where there were more air
bubbles, breathed deeply a few times, got
rid of heart-stimulating stuff, then dropped
down to easy and involuntary lung and
heart action.

Had he been chasing his lure, jumping
rapids or playing leap frog with the sun
rays, he would not have been compelled to
have searched for an extra amount of
air. There being no fright to upset the


regular control of the breathing through
the nervous system, he would have had
only to rest while the lungs adjusted their

In man as well as in animals, fright,
extreme worry, shocks, affect the breath-
ing habits temporarily or permanently.

Civilized man does not know the how or
why of breathing so as to get the best
out of himself. Instead of starting him
right in this matter it has been left to the
involuntary action of muscles and their
control by the nervous system. This con-
trol will carry the ordinary individual
through the average length of life as we
know it, but a trained breathing apparatus
will enable man or woman to add to the
length of life and keep life's activity up to
good and profitable working conditions.

In most matters connected with indi-

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Online LibraryWilliam Lee HowardBreathe and be well → online text (page 1 of 6)