When All Else Fails, Just Breathe
When we talk about getting healthy, we always assume that it is changing something in our diet or joining the gym (or actually going to the gym that you belong to). But there is something we can do, right here, right now, to bring health into our lives, and it’s literally right under our nose. Along the way, we have forgotten how to breathe, and if we could make this one change, we would see dramatic results.
Now I know what many of you may be thinking: You breathe all day long. In fact, on average, you breathe about 23,000 times a day. But are you breathing properly? I suspect many of us are breathing into our lungs and out of our lungs. We raise our chests out, take air in, our shoulders raise up and we use our mouths on both inhale and exhale. I hate to be the one to correct anyone, but that is a very stressful breath.
Let me explain. If you ran around a track at full speed, your body would be in a state of stress due to exerting energy. You would obviously need more oxygen; therefore, your lungs would open and you would take in more air. But chances are, you are not running around a track as you are reading this right now. You more than likely have a pretty stressful job or even home life, and therefore, breathing as if you just ran around the track. Inhale, lungs open, chest out, shoulders raise, exhale out. What if we tried something different?
Put your hand right below your rib cage in the center of your stomach. Take a breath in. Does your stomach suck in when you inhale or does your stomach push out? If your stomach is coming in, then you are using only your lungs to draw your breath and you will notice your chest raising. What we want to use is our diaphragm. We want to fill our bodies with air as if we were filling a glass of water, bottom to top. Your diaphragm is located right around where your hand was. When we breathe in, we want to push that part of our stomach out. Try it. Does it feel different? If it does, than you have been breathing stressfully and that is what we are looking to correct.
If you don’t trust me, look at the experts for proof. And by experts, I mean newborn babies. Watch a baby breathe. It’s their stomach that rises and falls, not their chests. Somewhere along the way, we got scared at something, and what was the first thing we did? We held our breath. Now, when stressed out, we do the same thing. Except scared as an adult has changed from a ghost story here and there when we were kids to a constant state of worry and stress. What we want to do during those times is literally stop and breathe.
I want you to do a simple exercise that should take no longer than two minutes. I want you first to get comfortable with this new way of breathing. I want you to keep your hand over your stomach and breathe in through your nose as you stick your stomach out and as your stomach maxes out, then fill your lungs with air. Then exhale through your mouth. That’s it; try to get used to this. Once you are familiar with it, I want you to count slowly to four as you are breathing in properly. Just a simple four seconds as you are breathing in through your nose and filling your belly first and then your lungs. Then I want you to hold your breath for four seconds. On the exhale, I want you to exhale out of your mouth to the count of eight. There you have it. Properly inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds and exhale for eight. Do that for four rounds every morning and evening, and anytime during the day that you are stressed, for 30 days. You will add calmness to your life and begin to regain control of your health and emotions.
Breath is life. Oxygen fills our entire body, all our cells and gives life to every organ.
You can go weeks without food, even days without water. But you can only go a couple of minutes without breathing. It is essential for us to have control over the most vital ingredient of our health. We can’t always get to the local health food store, nor can we always get to a pure filtered water source. But we can always breathe. So unless you are under water in this very moment, you essentially have everything you need.
Michael DeSanti was 17 when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She inspired him by taking a holistic and alternative route to her healing through diet and lifestyle change. His interest and passion for health and wellness led him to develop a one-on-one health coaching practice.
Photo credit: chintermeyer