Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to breathing. Your breathing habits have a direct effect on your health and wellbeing, on your athletic and creative abilities, your performance at work, and in everyday life. What you don’t know could be hurting you or holding you back on many levels, both in the short term and in the long run.
“Statistics suggest that many millions of people worldwide suffer with the profound and misunderstood symptoms and deficits of learned dysfunctional breathing habits. Unfortunately, these habits are rarely identified by practitioners, their effects mistakenly attributed to other causes, and their resolutions prescriptive in nature focus is on symptoms rather than causes.” (Dr. Peter Litchfield, President of the Graduate School of Behavioral Health Sciences”
Dysfunctional breathing habits not only compromise physical wellbeing, but they can have direct, immediate, and profound effects on your emotional and psychological health as well.
Here are some things that you can do on your own to improve your breathing and along with it, your health:
- Learn Diaphragmatic breathing (also called “belly breathing”). Practice until it becomes an unconscious habit—until you literally do it in your sleep!
- The natural breathing pattern is inhale, exhale pause. Inhale, exhale, pause. Make that pause after your exhale a comfort zone. Let your exhale be complete and don’t rush into the next inhale. Take your time and consciously enjoy that pause after your exhale.
- Apply the “two to one” pattern: Make your exhales twice as long as your inhales. For example: Exhale 4 and inhale 2. Or, exhale 6 and inhale 3. Exhale 8 and inhale 4. Mix it up and vary your rhythms. (You can count using seconds, heartbeats, or your footsteps.)
- Get out and get some good old-fashioned aerobic exercises. Get someone to kick your butt to get you moving and breathing! Make sure to choose your activities to match your abilities and your level of health.
- Practice breathing at a rate of 6 breaths per minute for 5 minutes, 3 times per day. This practice helps to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as high blood pressure and asthma.
- Take a hike! And breathe to the rhythm of your footsteps. Start with a 2-2 pattern: breathe in for two steps and breathe out for two steps. Then gradually increase your pace and the count to 3-3 and 4-4. Then experiment to find own favorite rhythm and pattern.
- Do Tai chi, Yoga, Chi Kung, or any other practice that involves slow graceful movements coordinated with breathing. Pilates is an excellent way to improve breathing by developing more flexibility and core strength.
- Learn “Bellows Breathing” to energize yourself. This ancient yogic technique stimulates the natural production of epinephrine. It involves breathing quickly and actively: 2 to 3 breaths per second (120 to 180 breaths per minute). You should sound like a busy bicycle pump! Do it for a minute or two, then rest for an equal amount of time. Several cycles of this will give you a healthy burst of energy.
Remember, we all have the ability to improve our own health and wellbeing, as well as our breathing, but the fact is, a good breathing coach can shorten your learning curve and accelerate your progress. For more information about breathing training, visit www.breathmastery.com.
Dan Brulé, author of Just Breathe: Master Breathwork for Success in Life, Love, Business and Beyond. He the foremost expert and authority in the field of Breathwork, and more than 100,000 people in over 50 countries now practice Dan’s Breathing Exercises and Techniques, including elite warriors, leading psychotherapists professional athletes and high performers like Tony Robbins.