Do you find yourself struggling to incorporate a breath practice with the time you have left in your day?  Good News! You don’t need to spend even ten minutes a day to start a practice that will benefit you in all aspects of your life.  

Three simple steps to kick start your breath practice are:

  1. Breathe through your nose
  2. Breathe lower
  3. Breathe slower. 

By incorporating these simple steps, you will notice a change in your mindset and a sense of calm as you move through your day.  

1. Breathe through your nose

Your nose is made for breathing.  It warms and filters the air while allowing the proper ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen to enter and exit your airways.  When you breathe through your nose, the increased resistance will allow the offload of more oxygen into your tissues based on the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. This is called the Bohr Effect.  Nasal breathing releases nitric oxide, which has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Nitric Oxide opens up your airways and blood vessels allowing for more oxygen to get to your brain and working muscles. Nasal breathing helps keep the nervous system in the parasympathetic state, the rest and relaxation state we should be in the majority of the time. It also works to activate the diaphragm.

2. Breathe lower

If you find yourself breathing into your upper chest, you are putting your body into a more chronically stressed state. This leads to the constant release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. There are a growing number of studies that suggest chronic diseases (i.e. cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome) along with poor health choices such as overeating and drug and alcohol abuse, are caused by chronic stress. When you breathe lower, you engage the main breathing muscle, the diaphragm.  Similar to other muscles in our bodies, the diaphragm needs to be worked.  Diaphragmatic breathing allows more oxygen to reach the lower lobes of the lungs where there is a larger surface area and greater blood flow. Properly using the diaphragm is important for core stability and posture. 

To breathe with your diaphragm, start by inhaling through the nose, deep into your belly.  Expand your ribs horizontally instead of moving your shoulders vertically.  Then, exhale through your nose, contracting your belly to the spine.  Breathing in this manner puts your nervous system in the parasympathetic state discussed above. Combined with slower breathing, this practice will lower your heart rate, improve cognitive function, and increase creativity.

3. Breathe slower

Over breathing is when your breathing exceeds the metabolic demands of your body or, to put it simply – breathing more than your body needs or requires.  This will cause you to blow off too much carbon dioxide resulting in an inefficient use of oxygen you are breathing in, leaving you in a suboptimal state. As a result, a host of issues may occur such as: anxiety, high blood pressure, brain fog, headaches, and even heart burn.  As your breathing slows, you will set off physiological changes that take you out of the chronically stressed state and improve your relaxation response and cognitive function. 

Putting it all together

The first step in changing behavior is through awareness.  As you go through your day, become aware of how you are breathing.  Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth?  Do you typically breathe into your upper-chest or into your belly and lower ribs? Are you breathing fast or slow?  Breathing is something you must do every day and it is important to learn to do it properly. Proper breathing will improve many areas of your life such as: sleep, anxiety, asthma, allergies and digestive issues.  You do not need to spend twenty minutes twice a day to begin seeing the benefits. 

As you check into your breath during the day, remember to breathe through your nose, breathe lower, and breathe slower.  Take five breaths in through the nose and out through the nose, breathing down into the belly and lower ribs at a rate of five seconds in and five seconds out.  This will take you less than one minute but has the potential to dramatically change your day.

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At Symmetry, we are currently offering virtual breath classes to help you further experience the benefits of the breath. You can access our schedule here.  We also develop individualized plans after assessing your breathing patterns, your stress levels, and goals.  We are here to help you become a more resilient human not only on the athletic field but also in life.  Our programs will improve your mindset, your performance, and give you tools to better handle the stresses of everyday life.  Set-up a FREE 15 minute call today! Check out our website to find out more information.