The Voice of Your Respiratory System


By: Debbie Rosas  |  April 13, 2009

Read the poetic words below, activate your imagination, and experience your anatomy as never before.

The Voice of Your Respiratory System

I am the Voice of your Respiratory System. My design functions as a self-sufficient, self-cleansing system with two parts, upper and lower segments, that work together to circulate the air you breathe. Unique to me is how I move the air you breathe in two directions—in and out. This is how I assist you in converting oxygen and nutrients into energy, exchanging gases to support you in maintaining the delicate biological processes you need for cellular metabolism.

As soon as you inhale, I get busy warming, filtering, and creating a masterful dance of diffusion in charge of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. You cannot see this dance that occurs within the rich pulmonary alveoli and capillary walls in your lungs. Your very first breath, inspiration, is the first action of my many phases that initiates you into a life on earth in a body. Expiration, my last phase, is the final part of my intricate processes and responsibility to rid your body of gases you do not need.

My soft containers, your lungs, are elegantly woven with internal elastic-like fibers designed to expand to let air in and contract to close and push air out. Covered with a pink connective tissue and shiny thin membranes, your lungs do not work alone. They are assisted by your diaphragm, ribcage, bones, muscles, arteries, veins and your lymphatic and nervous systems. Together we help you to refuel, replenish, and cleanse your body and its cells.

With the help of your thoracic muscles, you usually breathe 15 to 20 times a minute, moving over 8,000 ml of air in and out of your body. Inhale, and the muscles of your thorax, abdomen and diaphragm assist me in pulling air rich with oxygen into your lungs. Exhale and my assisting parts help me expel air out and get rid of unwanted carbon dioxide so that you have a continuous supply of fresh oxygen in your blood stream.

Your first breath, stimulated by a signal from a respiratory center in your brain, the medulla oblongata, functions to monitor and control your breathing without needing your assistance. This automatic and involuntary intelligence helps me work even when you’re asleep or unconscious. However, you also have respiratory connections with your cerebral cortex, meaning you have voluntarily control and can alter your breathing and even stop it at will.

Your nose, a cartilaginous extension on the front of your face with two orifices, is designed to smell. These two openings are designed to let air flow in and get warm, filtering out bits if dirt before it gets to your lungs. If blocked, I give you another way to bring oxygen in and out of your body, a mouth. Equipped with special nose hairs and mucous membranes in your nose, cheeks, forehead, mouth and throat, these parts of me function to remove minute irritating particles of dirt and air-borne bacteria from the air you breathe.

One of my parts, your larynx, known as your voice box, is designed with cartilaginous rings connected by ligaments and muscles. Sing and you can hear the exhaled air passing out and vibrating. Another part, your trachea, known as your windpipe, divides the left and right sides of your lungs into lobes with three lobes on the right and two on the left protected by a shiny thin membrane, the pleura.

Look more closely and you will see a bronchial tree, a design and structure with parts that get progressively smaller and eventually divide the air you breathe into 30,000 separate jets that function to exchange gas. Inside the walls of my lungs are minute cavities, hundreds of millions of alveoli, grape-like air sacs that cover an area up to 50 times that of your body surface. The job of these alveoli is to exchange gases which are the basis for respiration.

While I am built to be self-sustaining, I require the participation of your thoracic muscles to increase and decrease the size of your ribcage. Strength, Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, and Stability are developed when you breathe at different speeds and in a variety of ways to increase and decrease depth, volume and space. If you lose muscle Strength or Flexibility in your abdominal, intercostal muscles or diaphragm, I can no longer work as efficiently for you.

Deliberately exhale and breathe more deeply, or begin to extend the length of your exhale and you assist me to push out the stale air that gets stuck in the lower portion of your lungs when you limit breathing to a shallow, upper lung function.

My structures are sensitive, designed to work with two different pressures that come from two very different environments. One environment, the weaker one, is pressure that comes from the inside of your lungs. The second environment, a stronger pressure, comes from the outside of your body and is the atmospheric force. Together these two forces use their power to pull and push against one another to create internal volume and space needed to fill your lungs. Their dance of push-pull is the force you need to move air back out.

You can sense me and see me at work as you inhale and exhale, as you watch the rise and fall of your belly, observe a candle flame move and be blown out, notice the size of your ribcage expand and shrink, notice your breath become visible on a cold day, or by listening to your voice as you speak and sing. Inhale deeply and you will sense me filling up. Exhale fully and you will sense the movement of your diaphragm going up to push air out.

My importance is visibly evident, as seen in the birdcage-like container, the thoracic cavity - your ribcage - a container designed to protect your heart and lungs. Breathe quietly and you use approximately one half a liter of air with each breath. Physically exert yourself and I am asked to process as much as 120 liters with each breath.

My Gift to You

My gift to you is that I make sure the oxygen you breathe from the atmosphere gets to the internal spaces of your organism where it can be transported by your blood cells to every part of your body, making sure you have energy and life, even as you sleep.

Imagine Me As

Visualize me as your earth’s breathing equipment, complete with an external and internal face mask, with two tanks of air that filters, warm, humidifies, processes, and supports the gaseous exchange you need to breathe and swim in the earth’s oxygen rich environment and atmosphere.