Some of what happens when we breathe

The entire system interacts and integrates

  • Examine the dimensions of a human being: a container within which you find: shape, space, volume and motion.
  • Only about ten percent of the lung is occupied by solid tissue. The rest is filled with air and blood. Lung tissue must be sheer enough to allow gas to pass through it, yet strong enough to keep the separate balloon-like portions, or lobes, from collapsing.
  • It’s an asymmetrical shape—the right lung consists of 3 lobes, the left of 2 to allow room for the heart. Each minute the heart pumps the entire blood volume of the body (about 5 liters) through the lungs. Gas exchange (the air we breathe down then up) takes 0.25 seconds, or, a third of the total transit time of a red blood cell through the area.

Each part relies on the others to function

In a circulatory sense, the lungs are a pivotal aspect of what happens throughout the body.

  1. Oxygen—is captured in blood cells that travel through the whole body
  2. The blood moves away from the heart through pulmonary arteries
  3. Blood returns to the heart through the pulmonary veins
  4. Blood is oxygen rich, in other words, its flow delivers oxygen throughout the 
entire body as it travels

Our brains can’t function without that oxygen. (Without our brains we don’t function.)

All of this is fast—we are continuously moving

  • The diaphragm is the large, dome-shaped muscle in the chest that separates the air from the abdominal region that’s packed with organs. The diaphragm is a muscle that moves with each inhale and exhale. It controls about 75 percent of the movement of breath. When we breathe in, the diaphragm moves downward, creating a vacuum in the lungs and pulling air in.
  • Surrounding the lungs—enabling them to expand and shrink smoothly with each breath, are two elastic sacs separated by a layer of lubricating fluid.
  • Arms move as you breathe, spine moves, muscles located within the pelvic floor and deep abs move. Even legs move. These are all involuntary movements. And balance changes moment to moment with breathing.
  • When you exhale your ribs move slightly toward each other—air moves following the curves of your body.

Portions excerpted from:
The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman by Alexander Tsiaras & Barry Werth, Doubleday publisher.
Allison Aubrey, Morning Edition segment, NPR, June 29, 2009.
The Human Body Book, DK Publishing, 2007.

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