The Art Of Slowing Down To Speed Up

If you’re like most of us today, you’re moving at a hurried and sometimes frantic pace from the moment you awake until the moment you close your eyes. What if we equate this routine to how we breathe. The inhale being when we open our eyes, the exhale when we close our eyes and our day is the space between the inhale and exhale.

Before we get into the meat of this article, here’s a simple exercise you can try while you’re reading. Open your eyes, nasal inhale slowly. Read a couple sentences. Close your eyes, exhale, let the information settle into your personal awareness and relax.

Back to taking a breather . . . not only is how we inhale and exhale important to our health and well-being, but science reveals to use today the importance of the space betweens breaths. This is heart rate variability science. It’s also our ability to be resilient. Not just resilient in the physical body, but most of all, in the mental mind of choices. Our choices have consequences, both in the short and long term. Poor lifestyle choices are resulting in ill-health. Our breathing rates are a reflection of these choices. How are you moving through your day?

Chances are you’re moving through your day on a tight schedule of getting kids to and from school and after school activities, meetings, an inbox filled with emails that never stops, returning voicemails, paying attention to social media, last minute firedrills and at this time of year, we add all the holiday shopping and socializing on top of an already crammed schedule. Well, here’s the thing, scientific research now reveals our brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes without needing a break. Taking a breather is fantastic for you on many levels.

Our health, well-being and ability to perform optimally depends on our brain’s ability to function well. By design, our bodies have a natural cycle they move through within a 24-hour to maintain our mind/body health. These are called our ultradian rhythms.

The ultradian rhythm itself was first discovered in sleep research by Nathan Kleitman. He called it the “basic rest-activity cycle” which is a 90-minute cycle during which you progress through the five stages of sleep. Kleitman found the 90-minute pattern not only exists during sleep but also during the day as we move from higher to lower alertness — the ultradian rhythm.

When we learn to live within this rhythm, we do our most creative and productive work. Taking a breather every 90 minutes, means taking 5 minutes to break the cycle of thought or action you’re in to unplug from the activity. Yes, I’m asking you to completely disassociate for just 5 minutes to focus internally on your breath. Close your eyes, focus on your inhale and exhale and breathe as slowly as you can diaphragmatically through your nose.

Why through your nose? The practice of breath regulation in yoga (also called pranayama) leads to the control of many Autonomic Nervous System functions. Nasal dominance within the ultradian rhythm is a marker for cerebral hemispheric activity and can be used to voluntarily change activity in the highest centers of the brain and autonomic system that are involved in cybrenetic loops of communication with most organ systems, tissues and cells of the body. What does that mean in English? Taking a 5 minute nasal breathing break improves executive functioning, builds all forms of resilience, makes you more productive, happier and improves your health at the cellular level.

Taking a breather every 90 minutes reminds us to just “be” instead of always “doing”. All the “doing” is what’s getting us into trouble. Try the technique of inhale eyes open, exhale close the eyes. It feels so good to rest our eyes and the muscles that move them. Below is a exercise to reboot the nervous system. In this exercise, we’re using a variety of self care strategies at once: breath, movement and meditation.

5-Minute Brain Break

Go BE Great!

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  • Ed Harrold

    Author, Health & Human Performance Coach, Speaker, Educator

    Ed Harrold is an author, inspirational leader, public speaker, coach and educator. Ed’s mastery in the science of mindful breathing has guided him to apply conscious breathing practices in corporate performance coaching, fitness & athletic training, healthcare trainings, stress reduction and overall health and well-being. Ed is the author of Life With Breath IQ + EQ = NEW YOU & BodyMindBusiness: The Business Of BE’ing Within. Today, Ed blends the fields of neuroscience and the wisdom of contemplative traditions into effective strategies to improve well-being in Corporate America, Healthcare, athletic performance and individual health. Ed’s fluency in mindfulness-based strategies combined with the belief in the human potential gives him the depth and understanding to meet individuals and group needs across industries and platforms. Ed is a contributing health & wellness editor for Thrive Global, MindBodyGreen & PTOnTheNet, HuffingtonPost. Ed’s Breath AS Medicine Training offers CE in the healthcare, health & wellness coaching, fitness & athletic training sectors. Learn more about Ed at