Posted on September 17, 2021 by Emily Forbes
Most of us will not think twice about our breathing. We either are breathing and we’re alive, or we’re not and we’re dead. Have you been to a yoga class and responded with “I can’t do that breathing stuff” (like I’ve heard so many times), or been told by your trainer not to hold your breath when exercising? But sure enough, the current “big C” has brought new attention to breathing. Breathing is usually an automatic bodily function (lucky for us) but we are also able to control it consciously. This isn’t a design fault but a slice of evolutionary genius. Breath work is a big topic right now. So, let me share a little with you about breathing that is more than just in and out.
- Box breathing/square breathing. Used by US Navy SEALs, firefighters, police officers, nurses and athletes. Can heighten performance, concentration, focus and relieve stress. Start this exercise seated and try to keep the body as relaxed as possible whilst breathing. Slowly inhale into the belly through the nose, for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Exhale through the nose slowly for 4 seconds. Then hold again for 4 seconds and continue breathing round your “box” for a few minutes. If 4 seconds is too hard, try 3. As you get more relaxed you could increase the seconds but keep them even.
- Start becoming aware of your breath throughout moments in your day. Focusing on your breath brings you into the present. The breath is also an indicator of our emotional state. If we are angry or upset we might have short, shallow breaths in the upper chest. As we are able to consciously control our breath we can start to take slow, deep breaths and calm down and ease stress.
- Humans typically take 25,000 breaths per day.
- You should be nasal breathing for optimal health. Breathing through the nose filters air making it cleaner. But also produces nitric oxide which helps to fight or reduce viruses, including C-19. It pressurises the air making it slower to breath, equaling better oxygen absorption. Nasal breathing can help to alleviate asthma and respiratory illnesses. Can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Use micro pore tape over the mouth at night to improve sleep quality, including reducing snoring and sleep apnea, as well as overall health
- The Guinness World Record for voluntary breath hold was broken in March this year. 56 year old, Budimir Šobat, from Croatia held his breath underwater for 24 minutes 37 seconds. This surpassed the previous record by 34 seconds.
- Wim Hof/The crazy Dutch man/the Ice Man uses breath work, mediation and cold exposure to also break world records (26 in fact). He has voluntarily been injected with endotoxins with no ill effects. Showing that humans are capable of having some control over their autonomic nervous systems and immune responses. Hof isn’t a super human. He trained a group of subjects in the same way who were also able to reduce effects of the endotoxins.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not just a waste product. It is beneficial for our breathing. CO2 actually helps oxygen to be released from the blood into our cells and tissues. It also dilates blood vessels which allows for better oxygenation. Mouth breathing can causes chronic hyperventilation (reduced CO2) so another reason to nasal breathe (slow and low). CO2 tolerance can be an indicator of health (maybe my next blog will be on how to perform a CO2 tolerance test and ways to improve it).
- There are literally thousands of breath work techniques! Techniques for every situation. Sleeping, focus, relaxation, balancing, clarity, heightened states of consciousness, birth preparation, creativity, immunity, energy, connection, you name it! Or make it up. Explore your own breath. Try the nose, the mouth, long breaths, short breaths, breath holds, breathe to music, draw with your breath. Just have a play and see how you feel. You might surprise yourself.
As you can see, the breath can be used to improve health on many levels. The first step is always awareness. Notice how you breathe on a day to day basis. How you breathe in different emotional states or situations. Then play with your breath, exercise your breath. A word of warning, breath work is a deep hole. Once you start reading and learning about it, you realise how expansive it is. Just pause. Inhale deeper through the nose. Sigh an exhale through the mouth. See! Feel better already, right?