I work on breathing ALOT. Whether I’m coaching a client on how (and when) to breath during exercise, or repeating my meditation recommendations for the umpteenth time to a stressed out client, it’s present in almost every session that I do. Sometimes I feel like my clients would rather fast for a week instead of meditating for a couple minutes a day. It’s maddening!!! But the breakthroughs make it completely worth it. When a client who previously told me “I’ve tried meditating, I can’t do it” converts to now saying “I can’t live without meditating everyday”, that means the world to me. It all boils down to breathing. and it starts with a single breath on a single day. If one single breath is enough to convince your nervous system that you’re safe (not fighting a tiger), then imagine what 50 breaths can do…
This article from holistichilda.com details some of the most basic breathing hacks that we can all integrate into our daily lives. It’s free, effective, and requires little effort.
The Most Overlooked Health Hack is the One We Need the Most Right Now
I looked like a vampire in my teens. I don’t say this because I was super pale or because I had rich red lips. My “canine” teeth were elevated, giving off a fang vibe, before the “Twilight” movies became a thing. I finally got braces around age 16, which helped my appearance and enabled me to make friends again. I even got married and started a family. As I aged, my teeth shifted again, and I wanted to do whatever was needed to avoid being considered a part of “Team Edward” again. I sought out a dentist to see if I should do “Invisalign” or something like that.
Thankfully, I found a holistic dentist who suggested a different approach. Dr. Liao, author of “License to Thrive,” explained that while braces straighten the teeth, they don’t correct the problem of a narrow palate, and the related narrow airway. He recommended a DNA appliance that would widen the palate, and consequently open up the airway, getting more oxygen to my body. While I had initially become interested in straightening my teeth for cosmetic reasons, Dr. Liao clearly had a brighter idea. He was concerned with my life and breath.
Up until that point, I hadn’t given breathing much thought. Few of us do, since breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system (stuff the body just takes care of on its own, like kidney function and heart beating). Since that time, I’ve learned that breathing can be controlled and managed to benefit our health. It is, in fact, one of the most overlooked health hacks that we need, now more than ever, imho. Plus, it is simple to apply and it’s FREE! What can it do for you, you might ask?
Breathing intentionally can lower stress, maximize oxygen transport and absorption by cells, improve lung and heart function, and reduce anxiety. And, good news: you don’t have to get a DNA appliance to obtain the above list of benefits. Below are three of my favorite breathing techniques.
Box breathing — For de-stressing and moving the body from sympathetic mode (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest). Do three cycles (or more) of the following.
Breathe in for 4 counts.
Hold for 6 counts.
Exhale for 8 counts.
Hold for 10 counts.
Belly breathing — For reducing anxiety and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. For best results, lie on a flat surface (though you can be seated, if need be). Repeat 4–5 times, until feeling relaxed or sleepy.
Place your hand on your chest, the other just below your ribcage. Hand placement increases body awareness.
Inhale slowly, expanding your belly up against your hand.
Exhale, pushing your diaphragm up, expelling all of the air you possibly can.
Throughout, keep the chest as still as possible.
Nasal breathing — For increased athletic performance, decreased blood pressure, and improved cardiac function.
When awake, simply practice closing your mouth & intentionally breathing through the nose. (If it helps, think of Mary Poppins scolding Michael Banks. “We are not a cod fish.”)
When sleeping, use a simple mouth tape like Somnifix, to instill the habit while unconscious.
When exercising, increasingly challenge yourself to do part of the work out breathing exclusively through the nose.
Use these techniques interchangeably or stick with a favorite, once you’ve given them a try. Every time I breathe like this, I feel my cortisol levels lower and my parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. It’s a relief. Breathing intentionally is therapeutic in unexpected ways. So, breathe. You can thank me later.
[For more on the subject, listen to my Wise Traditions podcast interviews “Breathwork for Stress Relief” with Josh Trent and “Are You Breathing Wrong?” with James Nestor, author of “Breath: the New Science of a Lost Art”.]
This article first appeared on Medium. Hilda Labrada Gore is an ancestral health advocate, a certified health coach, and fitness professional. She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast and Tradiciones Sabias podcasts, on behalf of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She is a podcast coach, too, and the author of “Podcasting Made Simple.” She is also a YouTuber, helping people live their best lives through experts, experiences, and epic adventures. Hilda has energy to spare thanks to her ancestral health practices and her love for sunshine and liverwurst.