It has been written about in many ancient cultures; the value of breath. There are many words in Sanskrit (used by Hindus and Buddists) that emphasize the value of breath. Prana is a word to describe life force energy and relates to breathing. Pranayama is the practice of controlling your life force energy and involves breath work.
More recently, practices like holotropic breathing (1960s) and Wim Hoff breathing have emerged as forms for optimizing breath. Holotropic breathwork was developed by Stanislav Grof as a natural way to achieve altered states of consciousness. Wim Hoff developed his breathing technique to optimize the use of the body. Scientists actually did case studies showing Wim Hoff breath will reduce inflammation and increase activity of whiteblood cells resulting in quicker healing.
Despite the intuitive nature of breathing, many people overlook its value. The human body can go many days without food, a few days without water, but only a few minutes without breathing. The irony in this is the body can survive for a long time by breathing “wrong” and the results, while inconvenient at best, are ignored.
Our lungs have three lobes (superior, middle, inferior) and depending on how we use our diaphragm, the amount of air we take in varies. Each lobe is filled with air sacs called alveoli and they are what takes oxygen into the blood. The deeper we breath, the more alveoli come in contact with air. However, most people get by with only filling the superior lobe. This is known as chest breathing and can easily be noticed by the lack of belly movement.
For many people, this does them “just fine” for most of their life. In fact, most people don’t even realize they are doing it as breathing is an automatic function. People who are very angry, anxious or have trouble letting things go, often breath through their chest. This shallow form of breathing results in less oxygen and more carbon dioxide build up which results in higher levels of stress and tension in the body.
So what can be done about this? First off, let me just say I am not a doctor. If you have serious breathing issues, go see a professional. However, if you simply want to breathe better, here is how.
- Imagine there is a string attached to your belly button. As you breathe in, this string is being pulled outward, inflating your belly like a balloon.
- On the exhale, imagine you are breathing fire out your nostrils like a dragon. Don’t put any force on your belly. Just let it fall naturally.
It seems very simple, however if you have been breathing incorrectly for a long time, you will have to consciously remind yourself to practice this. Especially, when you become triggered or distracted with other tasks. Eventually, it will become more automatic and you will not need to focus on it as much, however that may take awhile.
Even before this becomes an automatic process for you, there will be many benefits. You will feel more relaxed as your blood is oxygenated. You will have more energy. You will feel more centered and in control of your emotions. It is really quite profound if you have never experienced it before.
The biggest challenge I feel is for those of us who exercise a lot. Core workouts naturally put weight on and tighten the muscles around the belly making this more difficult. That’s not to say stop doing crunches, but you may need to stretch your abs and diaphragm.
To stretch your diaphragm:
- Bend forward at the waist with your arms hanging in front of you. If you have back problems you may rest your arms on your knees. Exhale as much as you can.
- Slowly move your arms upwards in an arc while inhaling into your belly.
- At the top of the arc, slightly lean back with your arms in the air stretching the belly just a little more. Only arch your back as much as you feel safe doing so. If you have back problems this can be skipped.
There are many yoga poses to stretch the abdominal muscles: Cobra pose and Upward Dog pose are a few. As well as core twists to stretch out the obliques. In essence, you will lie face down on your belly, and lift your torso up with your arms while keeping your hips and legs on the floor. However I am not a yoga instructor and for safety purposes I suggest you watch a YouTube video or two on cobra and upward dog.
At the end of the day, breathing is the most important thing for living. It influences the entire functionality of our body and mind. It can be used to achieve higher states of consciousness and optimise the use of the body. Many problems can be solved simply by breathing correctly. Sadly, our culture ignores this and our lifestyle habits often promote inefficient forms of breathing. If you really want to take charge and level up, breathing correctly all day, everyday, will give you momentum like you never imagined.
I hope this article helped you or improved your life in some way. If you have more specific questions or topics you want to learn, check out my book a lesson tab and don’t forget to follow me on social media!
To all my fellows, may your seeking be fruitful and your findings bountiful!