We all do it 25.000 times a day, we don’t consciously think about it, and we wouldn’t survive without it. Breathing. We are not giving it the attention it deserves. It has been known that ancient civilizations and eastern societies are seen as the foundational pillar of health and we in the west pay close to non-attention to them. Breathing has been shown to cure diseases, regulate stress and even change the shape of our faces. Moreover, it gives you the ability to take conscious control over your nervous, energy and even immune system!
I will proceed to give you simple 3 breathing techniques you can implement as a habit.
Practice Breath control through your nose to reduce stress
The nose is designed to breathe like our feet are designed to run. Research has shown that nasal breathing compared to mouth breathing improves; HRV (Heart rate variability) by 50%, Blood pressure by 20 points and CO2 Levels by 30%.In your nose you have hair for filtering particles, sinuses filter even smaller particles, and they even contain T-cells which kill viruses and bacteria.
Furthermore, breathing through the nose releases Nitric oxygen which dilates blood vessels. Whilst breathing through the nose the air is humidified and warmed which is important if you want to defuse oxygen in your bloodstream from your lungs. Not only recent research shows the benefits of nasal breathing, the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical texts ever discovered around 1500 BC, described how nostrils were supposed to feed air to the heart and lungs, not the mouth.
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadishodhana, is a common breathing exercise used in yoga. In this technique, you inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other, while using your finger to close the opposite nostril. The exercise requires focus, so it’s great for increasing mindfulness.
To try alternate nostril breathing, follow these steps as relaxation techniques:
- While sitting in a chair, up tall and relax your shoulders.
- Lay your left hand on your left knee.
- Place your right thumb on your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril.
- Place your right ring finger on your left nostril. Exhale through your right nostril.
- Inhale through your right nostril.
- Return your right thumb to your right nostril. Exhale through your left nostril. This completes one set.
- Repeat for 5 minutes
Right nostril breathing:
activates the sympathetic nervous system and feeds more blood to the opposite side of the brain, specifically to the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with the logical decision, language, and computing.
Left nostril breathing
is closely related to the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to relax and reduce anxiety. It shifts blood flow to the opposite side of the prefrontal cortex, the area that plays a role in creative thoughts and emotions.
Over breathing exercises
We could not do a blog post without referring to the legend that is Wim Hof(pictured). The Iceman has become a viral sensation lately as people have discovered how much breathing can influence your body temperature and anxiety, therefore allowing to push your body through very cold deep breathing.
Wim Hof uses a technique that he calls controlled hyperventilation or power breathing. These breaths are followed by a retention time, where you hold your breath for x amount of time. By practising breathing exercises, you are releasing more energy, influencing your nervous system, and changing various physiological responses. You are inducing a short stress response that will ultimately lead to more resilience towards everyday stress, mental and physiology and feeling more in control. Benefits include stress reduction, faster recovery from physical exertion, better sleep, improved sports performance, enhanced creativity, increased focus and mental clarity.
Assume a meditation posture: sitting or lying down — whichever is most comfortable for you. Make sure you can expand your chest freely without feeling any constriction.
Close your eyes and try to clear your mind. Be conscious of your breath and try to fully connect with it. Inhale deeply through the nose or mouth and exhale unforced through the mouth. Fully inhale through the belly, then the chest and then let go unforced. Repeat these 30 to 40 times in short, powerful bursts. You may experience light-headedness and tingling sensations in your fingers and feet. These side effects are completely harmless.
After the last exhalation, inhale one final time, as deeply as you can. Then let the air out and stop breathing. Hold until you feel the urge to breathe again.
When you feel the urge to breathe again, draw one big breath to fill your lungs. Feel your belly and chest expanding. When you are at full capacity, hold your breath for around 15 seconds, then let go. That completes round number one. This cycle can be repeated 3-4 times without intervals. After completing the breathing exercise, take your time basking in the bliss.
Breathing Slow has fast benefits
Our great ancestors discovered that breathing slowly was the key to a more stimulated brain. When Buddhist monks chant their most popular mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, each spoken phrase lasts six seconds, with six seconds to inhale before the chant starts again. Popular chants in Jainism, Hindi, African, Hawaiian, Native Americans, Taoists and Christians somehow developed the same prayer techniques, requiring the same breathing pattern. There is a reason for this and that’s because modern science has deducted those 6 seconds inhale, 6 seconds exhale breathing pattern, blood flow to the brain increased and the systems in the body entered a state of coherence when the functions of the heart, circulation, and nervous system are coordinated at peak efficiency. If you are about to go into an important meeting or need some stimulation, this small breathing technique is perfect. Inhale for 6 seconds, and 6 seconds exhale. It’s as easy as that. Repeat for 2 minutes.