I don’t know if you’re the type of person who can sit for hours at the top of a mountain, meditating…
Or if – like the vast majority of people I know – you just THINK about sitting at the top of a mountain, meditating, and all you can imagine is how long you’ll be twiddling your thumbs before you go flying down that mountain, screaming “I’m sorry! I’ll meditate tomorrow!”, then I have something for you to consider.
If you haven’t heard much about it yet, you will. I’m talking about breathwork. It’s only going to get more attention in 2018 than it already has.
Sure there are some very intense breathwork practitioners – often also energy healers – who help people deal with anxiety, PTSD, and poor performance or poor relationships.
But the average person can stand to do a LOT better when it comes to breathing and I want to help you discover how to do that. Crazy, you think? I mean, we’re all born knowing how to breathe, for pete’s sake, right?
Yes… but in this day and age, because of how we live – most of us sitting at our desks most of the day, with head down looking at a screen, or else walking with head down and thumbs flying on our cellphones – we’ve forgotten how to breathe WELL.
This week I’ll give you one simple breath exercise you can use right away, and I’ll give you some more next week.
But first, why is it so important?
Your autonomic nervous system (ANS)
The ANS is the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary responses. Most, like your heart rate, you can’t directly control. It turns out that breathing is the only physiological system over which you do have control, so it makes sense to learn to use it to your best advantage.
The ANS has two basic “modes”, and only one can be activated at a time.
Your sympathetic nervous system is all about survival. When it’s switched on, your pupils dilate, your heart rate increases, your muscles contract as they get ready for fighting or fleeing, your adrenaline increases, and you experience other body functions of high alert.
This is commonly called “stress”! And too much of it has a slew of bad side effects (greater susceptibility to illness, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, among other things).
On the other hand, your parasympathetic nervous system is your body’s natural way of switching off the “threat response” activated by the sympathetic nervous system. When it’s switched on, it reduces blood pressure, stabilizes blood sugar (which reduces the likelihood of diabetes), helps you sleep better, and more.
So here’s your first, most important breathing exercise.
Breathe through your nose, not your mouth
When you breathe through your mouth, your breath stays in your chest. This prevents it from moving through your body, oxygenating your blood and removing carbon dioxide (waste) from your body.
In addition, when you breathe in through your nose, you take advantage of the natural filtering effect of the tiny hairs called cilia. They filter, humidify, and either warm or cool the air you breathe before it enters the lungs. These cilia protect your body from as many as 20 billion particles of foreign matter every day!
After your nose, the air enters your mucus-lined windpipe, which also traps unwanted particles.
Once in your lungs, oxygen is removed and carbon dioxide takes its place, removing waste from your body.
Notice that if you breathe primarily through your mouth, you accelerate water loss, which contributes to dehydration. And you permit the vital oxygen to leave too quickly, reducing your energy. All of these are reasons to breathe in through your nose.
I know I started out talking about meditation and breathing. What’s the connection you ask?
I’ll get into it a bit more in next week’s letter, but here’s the short version:
When you stop and focus on your breathing technique – breathe through your nose, for example – you become more aware, and awareness of your body is a big part of mindfulness.
For people who struggle to “do meditation”, mindfulness is the next best thing. It helps you switch to your parasympathetic nervous system, which has tremendous health benefits.
Learning to manage stress includes all aspects of your physical health, including your breathing. I’d be more than happy to talk with you about how to manage your health, from exercise to nutrition, to breathing exercises. I want you to feel like you are ready to start every day from a place of peak performance.
Please reach out to schedule an appointment by clicking here. I’m looking forward to speaking with you!
PS, Some more breathing exercise coming next week!