Take away meditation, exercise and good nutrition, we’re left with the basics of our body. Our most important tool, the natural variable that can profoundly affect our mood, energy and health. Our Breath. But I want to tell you, don’t forget to breathe as this is our most basic mechanism to a wider range of health.
Breath work and breathing exercises have been around since before the early scripture of yogis and gurus. One of the ills of todays is that we live in a world of shallow breathers and many have forgotten the most basic skill we are born with.
The marvellous news is that deep breathing is coming back in to fashion and there are a host of enthusiast breath worker that are healing people with some amazing techniques and programs.
Getting my breath back
Many years ago, in my dark times of anxiety, I was a shallow chest breather and forgot how to deep breath. I literally forget how to get a deep diaphragmatic breath into my body. It wasn’t until and went through an extreme health decline that a professional made me aware of this.
I was never aware of how shallow I was breathing or what a normal, healthy person should breath like. I also never knew how important breath was to my anxiety disorder at the time.
When I dug into the importance of using the proper posture and breathing techniques, I saw a positive effect in my health, fitness and anxiety. I went from using 40% breathing capacity to an 80% breathing capacity.
Lung function test using max capacity and other breathing muscles
Here is a quick test to check how much breathing capacity you are using right now.
Step 1. Breath in and out what you feel is a normal way to breath. Not forced and in a natural way.
Step 2. After a few of these normal breathes, Breath in and stop. Don’t breathe out.
Step 3. Force in another breath in as much as you can.
Step 4. Breath out and compare how much your first breath in was to your second forced breath in.
What most people find is that their first breath is only about 30-50% of their breathing capacity. This shows that they are not naturally using all their breathing muscles and not efficiently utilizing their lung capacity.
This stems from weakened diaphragm muscles, the loss of the subconscious breathing patterns and can be signs of stress or illness. Worsen signs include shortness of breath.
How do I get rid of shortness of breath?
If you’ve had long standing days or weeks of shortness of breath and doctors can’t define any serious problems, they will normally point the finger at anxiety or depression. This may be the case but conventional medicine doesn’t always look at alternative reasons that can create this.
Bad Posture affects breathing – If you’re a desk jokey or a lounge sloucher, you are in the position to weaken the critical muscles that allow you to take in deep breaths.
Try to become aware of your posture when sitting at a desk, lounge or even walking. I’ve been using posture brace for years and this has helped a lot with my desk posture. Also, the use of ergonomics desk chairs and standing desks improved my awareness to my posture.
Get a breathing Coach
The master of breathing, Michael Grant White has an array of information, courses and tools to improve your breathing for longevity. I purchased his Optimal Breathing Self Mastery Kit and improved my breathing strength using his guidance.
His Optimal Breathing consultation is scientifically backed and can be used for improving health, reducing stress, healing past traumas, and even for a better sex life.
Check out breathing.com for a plethora of resources that will get you breathing better in no time.
Expand Lungs and core breathing muscles with Wim Hof – The internet calls him the Ice Man and he holds many cool world records like the longest person to stay submerged under ice or climb Mount Everest in a nothing but boots and pair of shorts.
The Wim Hof Method not only helped expand my breath, but helped me use oxygen more efficiently. His techniques include a combination of deep like hyper breaths and breath holding. I also improved my breath hold from 20 seconds to a maximum of 3 minutes and 23 seconds.
His techniques have an amazing stimulation to the autonomous immune system and in a scientific trial, he and others that who have learned his method were able to fight off symptoms of illness when injected with a bacterium that would cause vomiting and other flu like symptoms.
My biggest take away from Wim was learning how to hold my breath and rid the panic attack symptoms that I would normally feel when anxious. When in a panic attack, it feels like you can’t breathe. Knowing I could hold my breath for minutes seem to override this feeling of breathlessness.
Breath Fast and slow – Just being aware of your breath at more times of the day is a start to improving. Mindful breathing can be developed with breathing meditations or using a friend in your pocket.
There are some amazing breathing apps available that can help you develop a better breathing technique in just a few minutes a day.
Discover Mindfulness, One breath a time. This app has a smooth colourful interface with soothing voices to help teach you how to slow down your breath.
It has been very popular and here are what some of the critics are saying about it:
- Time: “Calm yourself with Breathing Zone.”
- Harvard Health: “When you find yourself under stress, Breathing Zone can help.”
- Bloomberg: “The breathing trick that can make you more productive.”
- New York Magazine: “Sometimes the fastest way to combat anxiety or an oncoming panic attack is just to remember to breathe. I like Breathing Zone for its simplicity.”
- Huffington Post: “An effective guide to mindful breathing.”
- LifeHacker: “Breathing Zone Guides you towards slower breathing to help reduce stress.”
This a portable stress management tool which provides instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing. A powerful little app to helps decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control and anxiety management.
Breathe Deep – iOS
Another great free breathing app based on Pranayama breathing techniques and provides visualization to control breath and live feedback.
Sessions can range from 1-15 minutes, include warm up exercises, uses sound and vibrations to cue inhalation or exhalation.
Patrick McKeown is a world renown author and breathing practitioner who is a master in Butekyo. At a young age, Patrick suffered from asthma and relied on many medicines and inhalers until he discovered the Butekyo method.
His book, The Oxygen Advantage is a simple yet revolutionary approach to improving your body’s oxygen use, increasing your health, weight loss, and sports performance.
He’s a fan of nose breathing and taping up your mouth at night to force a restful sleep.
Don’t hold your breath and get start now
Breathing is something we can all work on anytime and can have marginal health improvements with some simple adjustments.
I want you to breathe easy now and get working on improving your oxygen efficiently and have a happier life.
Have you used any of the tips, programs or tools above? Please let me know how they have affected your life in the comments below.