Just Breathe

breath We hear and see phrases like these all the time these days: "Just Breathe." "Breath is Life." "Take a deep breathe." "Catch your breath" But, what do they really mean by breathe? Surely, I AM breathing?! Of course I’m breathing, or I would not be alive.

Breathing: we simply can’t live without it!

The truth is, most of us are not breathing effectively. Notice your breathing right now. Is anything moving? If not, then chances are your breathing is shallow. Deep breathing should be an essential part of everyday life. It can help you to feel happier, give you more energy and even make you more productive. Deep breathing is probably best known for stress relief, but this #DailyMeasure has many other amazing health benefits, and I’ve highlighted some of my favorites for you.

Breathing Detoxifies and Releases Toxins

The body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. I know – I was surprised too! You know I’m a huge fan of detoxing the body to keep it healthy and happy, so this is reason enough for me breathe deeply! If you don’t release these toxins through your breath, other systems in the body have to work overtime to help out, which can eventually lead to illness.

Improved Oxygen Delivery

Deep breathing removes the carbon dioxide from your blood and floods it with oxygen – ah! Your cells will thank you! This increases the functionality of every system in your body.

Deep Breathing Makes You Calmer

Deep breathing naturally relaxes the body and the mind. We all have times in our day when stress creeps up on us and we know that stress is at the core of most diseases, so finding a simple way to manage stress is key. When we feel stressed our breathing tends to become short and shallow. When we breathe shallowly our body doesn’t receive as much oxygen as it needs and this constricts our muscles. We’ve probably all had that feeling of tightness in our body when we’re stressed or angry. This response triggers the sympathetic nervous system to release cortisol and adrenaline into the body, fueling the response again. The parasympathetic nervous system is the antidote to this and breath is the fastest way for these two systems to communicate. Deep breathing will quickly stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, to help you relax. So the next time you feel stressed, anxious or angry…take a few deep breaths and think about breathing in “the good” and breathing out “the bad”.

Breathing Relieves Pain

When we anticipate or feel pain our natural reaction tends to be to hold our breath. This is the absolute opposite of what we should be doing. Studies show that breathing into your pain actually helps to ease it. Deep breathing releases endorphins, which improves feelings of well-being and provides pain relief. Yay!

Deep Breathing Helps to Regulate Weight

Deep breathing can help whether you are overweight or underweight. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the cells and tissues. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen in the body will help to burn up excess fat more efficiently. When we are stressed (and most of us are at some point in the day) your body burns glycogen instead of fat. However, when you practice deep breathing and engage the relaxation response, this encourages the body to burn fat instead. Other Benefits of Deep Breathing
  • Elevates your mood
  • Helps you sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves posture
  • Increases energy
  • Improves digestion
  • Strengthens lungs
  • Clear thinking & improved concentration
We all have to breathe, so why not make the most of it and reap these benefits.

Keep it simple

It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It can be as simple as spending some time each day consciously breathing slowly and rhythmically. Draw your breath deep into your lungs and imagine and feel them expanding. When you’re breathing is shallow you’re only using a small portion of your lungs. Breathing deep into the lungs drives more oxygen into the body, which cleanses the blood and in turn benefits your entire body. You can practice this anytime, anywhere. Driving, sitting at your desk or computer or lying in bed at night.

Deep Breathing

Find 5-10 minutes once or twice a day to practice Deep Breathing. I can hear you all now, saying this is just one more thing you don’t have time for :) I totally get it. This is the one thing I had the hardest time with, and yet I find it incredibly beneficial, and I know you will too! There are several different breathing techniques, but I’m going to share just one simple version.

Overview

In order to breathe properly, you need to breathe deeply into your abdomen not just your chest. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic, and through the nose, not the mouth. Are you sitting comfortably?
  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down
  • Take a moment to relax your muscles. Find where there’s tension in your body and release it.
  • Inhale through your nose, expanding your diaphragm (belly) then fill your lungs, counting to 5
  • Hold and count to 3. Feel your cells filled with golden, healing light.
  • Exhale fully through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Again counting to 5. As you exhale release tension from your muscles.
  • Continue this pattern for 5-10 minutes. You may need to build up this time. If you can only start with 2 or 3 minutes, that’s OK. It is better to do it for a shorter time than not at all. Doing this twice a day is ideal.
  • Concentrate on your breathing and counting, which will give your mind a much-needed break.
I can honestly say that since I have been practicing breathing more regularly, I find myself calmer and much more able to roll with life. The past couple of days are a perfect example. (If you’re short on time, you’ve read the important information already and now I’m just sharing a story of how I’ve applied breathing in my own life.) The quick-ish version is that upon returning home travel weary at 9 p.m. Saturday night after our recent trip to Portugal, just as we were getting into bed for some much needed sleep our house alarm went off. The message said “Gas Detected”. Eek! I was freaked out!! Randall checked what he could and said he thought it was an error. Hmm, I was not happy with that answer, thinking we might die in our sleep. I was all set to sit up all night, when the cavalry appeared. Within 15 minutes, what seemed like the entire White Stone Volunteer Fire Department were banging on the door. WOW – I was so impressed! In our sleepiness, it didn’t even occur to us that the alarm company might send the Fire Department! Although, honestly, I was relieved and happy to see them, although embarrassed for them to see me in my fluffy robe and glasses. They actually had equipment to check for a gas leak (unlike Randall’s hunch) and they reported all was well, but they would turn off the gas till we could have it checked. After all this excitement, I finally got into bed, practiced my deep breathing and drifted off. Sunday night we’re fast asleep and at 2:30 a.m. the alarm goes off again. Lights on, phone call to the alarm company to save the Fire Dept. another visit…none of this is helping with my lack of sleep or jetlag?! However, I get back into bed and practice my deep breathing and back to sleep I go. Today, we had the gas company, the alarm company and the internet service company all at the house…oh, did I forget to mention the internet was down? Grrr! There was so much going on and all I wanted to do was write my blog post. I sat in my office and breathed. I blocked out the comings and goings and before I knew it, I was feeling calm and rolling with all the visitors of the day. There would have been a time in my life when the events of the past couple of days would have me on edge and stressed, but not anymore! Please give it a try! I know you will feel better for it! Do you have a regular breath practice? What benefits have you experienced? If you’re new to a breath practice, please let me know what you think and how you feel! email_signoff1

About Alison

Live Everyday. Here's to your good health. Whole Foods RULE!