Fortified Health Club: Small Changes Make Big Impacts

Do You Know How to Breathe?

March 02, 2016 by Dr. Rachel Knox, MD

Breathing is the subconscious mechanism by which our lungs pull air into our bodies and deliver oxygen to our cells, which require it to function.

Life outside a mother’s womb cannot begin without the first breath.

In some cultures, the first breath signifies the moment when life enters the body for the first time, bridging the connection between mind and body, consciousness and subconsciousness, matter and spirit.

In many languages, the word for “breath” is synonymous with “spirit.”

Breathing is something very special. It’s the only bodily function you can perform both consciously and unconsciously.

It can be completely involuntary, like you were doing just before you started to pay attention to it, or completely voluntary, like when you take in a deep breath and hold it.

Proper Breathing Techniques

Breathing has many health benefits when done properly, such as providing essential nourishment, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, relieving anxiety, improving digestion, controlling mood, and aiding with relaxation.

The conscious regulation of breath is the single most effective relaxation technique.

Have you ever heard somebody say, “Breathe from your center”?

When you are stressed out or upset, you take short, shallow breaths. It can feel like weights are bearing down on your lungs.

When our bodies become restricted like this, our thoughts and actions do, too. They become cloudy and irrational.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

You cannot always calm yourself by an act of will, but you can breathe slowly, deeply, quietly, and at a regular pace, as in a state of calm, and the rest will follow.

This type of breathing is what we call diaphragmatic breathing.

Your diaphragm sits just below your lungs, near the center of your body—hence the phrase “breathing from your center.”

Breathing from here allows you to draw in as much breath as possible, forcing your diaphragm to expand and fill your lungs with nourishment.

The 4-7-8 Breath

The 4-7-8 breath is a simple exercise developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder of integrated medicine.

It is a quick breathing technique that neutralizes stress, achieves relaxation, and balances the autonomic nervous system, and includes the following:

• Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds.
• Hold your breath for seven seconds.
• Let your air out through your mouth, lasting eight seconds.

Repeat this exercise for four cycles, twice a day, after waking in the morning and when lying down for bed at night. Try it every day for the next month.

Once you’ve mastered performing this daily, increase it to eight breath cycles, day and night.

While this exercise is recommended twice daily, try it in times of stress throughout your day for a quick and relaxing reboot. Use as often as needed.