I’m a "shallow breather." Not good.

Babies take their first breaths, typically, between great squalls of what seem like protests from being removed from their safe, warm haven of nine months. What is actually going on is the necessary process of filling their little lungs with their first gulps of independent life-on-earth, oxygen. They soon settle down into soft sleeping. They breathe through their noses as their little tummies rise and fall.

We could do well to take a lesson in breathing from the newly arrived little ones.

It isn’t just our lungs that need oxygen. It’s every cell in or bodies — including our brains; it's “brain food.” Oxygen is the major fuel without which we won’t start or run more’n a few minutes, yet we pay little attention to just how we breathe. And even though breathing is pretty much on autopilot, there are ways to breathe, habits we can learn, to make our oxygen intake count for better minute-to-minute and long-term, health, energy and thinking.

But even if we learn the better way, making and keeping it as an unconscious habit isn’t as easy. Here I am a great-gramma times six and I still have to remind myself to actually fill my lungs full of fresh oxygen rather than just topping off the tanks.

Over the years of bouncing around the country, living from coast to coast and border to border with stops in between, I have taken lessons many different teachings, starting with Hatha Yoga, the breathing exercises of yoga practice. When I lived in the Berkshires, in my 20s, I had a friend who was a Yoga "Diva." She taught me the exercises and we would "lotus-sit" on the floor, hands resting on our knees in pointer-finger to thumb position while staring at a candle flame and doing the deep breathing.

Over the years of learning, reading about other exercises that get maximum oxygen into the lungs, I came to realize that the same benefit can be accomplished without candles or sitting lotus-style or lying on a mat on our backs for breathing exercises or exhausting long runs or jogging or using machines in a gym, etc. It’s simply breathing deep enough in healthy air — which to me means not sweat-filled air of gyms or pollution-filled air of cities. We are most blessed in that we're here in Maine’s oxygen-rich air from our forests and shorelines.

I picked up Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when I lived in California in the '70s. I read books by people who learned the benefits through exercise routines they practiced for other reasons, like running, jogging (forget that), just walking to "sprint-walking." Sprint walking is my speed, easy to do and touted as effective as long walks or running or exhausting aerobics. It’s also tailor-made for my age now.

The first book I stumbled upon about breathing, in the '80s, was titled "Take a Deep Breath," by a husband-wife team under the name of their practices, Life Extensions. I still have it here buried somewhere in my bookshelves throughout the house. It’s long out of print and I can’t find any of their books now listed.

There is a relatively new book with the same title, but not by them. I won’t bother with buying it. If I can’t get myself to automatically breathe right by the methods I have already learned over the decades, one more book won’t do much good. I just have to get serious. That means, consciously practice daily, hourly, for three to four weeks, to breathe right until it becomes an automatic habit. Problem is I’m a bit lazy when it comes to routine, especially breathing correctly, which results in less energy which contributes to my not doing the exercises. It’s a vicious circle, I tell you.

And who among us has not heard the admonition, when stressed or getting het-up, to “Take a deep breath”? Or "Take a walk”? Sound advice. Get some fresh oxygen into your lungs/brain and it can calm you down.

But back to belly-breathing. Think of your lungs like the old-fashioned bellows that people used to prime a fire in the fireplace. You need to fill all of the lungs, not just the top, to get the full benefits. Practice taking a long, deep breath through your nose while sucking in your stomach in a rolling, bottom to top way, which helps pull the oxygen deep down into your lungs, filling them to capacity. Hold for five-plus counts to let the new oxygen to settle in, then slowly exhale through your mouth with one last, quick push in with your stomach, which pushes out the last of the carbon dioxide. Repeat for 10 rounds. Do this often.

Oxygen: the most vital of supplements/foods to promote good health, energy and "brain food." And it’s free.

No prescription needed and no "adverse side-effects" list a mile long.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools. She now lives in Morrill.