The Best Breathing Techniques I’ve Found!
Ever since I can remember I’ve been a mouth breather.
I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me until I noticed that I couldn’t boost my cardio like I wanted to. Clearly I was doing something wrong and needed to find a better way.
Mouth breathing caused me to use the wrong muscles to breathe resulting in a chronically tight upper back and shoulders and shortness of breath. Because of this I was breathing too rapidly and shallow, causing negative effects on my sleep, mood and health. I wanted to figure out how to retrain myself to breathe properly (whatever that was)…and found some techniques and an app that made the process much easier.
Why would anyone need an app or special techniques to learn to breathe? As it turns out, like anything else related to health there’s a better way to do things that unlocks the most benefits in the least amount of time. That was my goal.
If you’ve researched the healthiest way to breathe, you’ve noticed that thousands of books have been written on the subject. It can be overwhelming to weed through all the information and figure out the best steps to take.
I’ve simplified the process fo you by putting together a few ideas that have helped me enormously.
Proper breathing is a core principle of yoga. Many yoga instructors emphasize nose breathing using the diaphragm to ensure you’re breathing calmly and without effort. One of the powerful nose breathing techniques they use is called box breathing.
Box breathing (aka square breathing) is used to calm the nervous system, focus the mind and eliminate stress. It’s been proven to improve sleep and increase energy along with a host of other benefits including boosting your immune system! It’s so powerful that it’s even used by Navy Seals to help them stay level-headed in stressful situations.
How to Practice Box Breathing
Box breathing is extremely simple to practice. Simply relax your body (sitting or lying down) and do the following:
- Exhale for a count of four.
- Keep your lungs empty for a count of four.
- Inhale for a count of four.
- Keep your lungs full for a count of four.
It’s worth the effort to find a time during the day to practice it regularly. Some common times include first thing in the morning, on a 5 minute break at work or before bed.
How does it work?
If you dig into yoga science you may read about how your breath is the link between your mind and body. By managing your breath, you can calm your mind and unlock new levels of creativity and relaxation, (similar to a session of Network Spinal Analysis.). For thousands of years Yogis have promised that you have untapped levels of potential within you that you can access…all through the breath. It turns out that they were right as usual.
Science has finally discovered what yogis have been teaching for centuries. We have two branches of our automatic nerve system. This part of your nerve system runs “automatically” to keep you healthy (controlling your immune system, heart beat, digestion and much more) while you’re focused on work or watching your kids play sports etc.
One branch is energizing and responds to stress (the sympathetic branch) and the other branch relaxes or depresses you (the parasympathetic branch). The magic happens when these two branches are balanced or equally turned on. Similar to when a teeter totter is balanced in the middle, your body functions best when you are not too stressed and stimulated or too relaxed or depressed.
I want to share my favourite breathing app that makes balanced breathing so much easier! It’s the The Breathing App and it’s available for free on any apple phone.
This app is easy to set up and comes complete with a quick start video and instructions for setting up your breathing practice. Simply set the number of seconds for your inhalation and exhalation, the amount o time you want it to run…you’re ready to go!
There’s a visual to help you follow along but if you prefer to close your eyes a soothing tone encourages the balance of your inhales and exhales. The tone itself is calming and will help you stay focused on your breathe. If you have trouble shutting your brain off and getting to sleep, using the app in bed is a great way to quiet the mind before bed.
You can start with 4:4 (4 second inhalations and 4 second exhalation) and work up to longer breath cycles like 6:6. Play with it and see how you feel.
“Hacks for better health” are all the rage from intermittent fasting to mewing and tabata workouts. While some of these new fads are useful balanced breathing trumps them all. It’s a path to retraining your entire nerve system with very little effort. In just 5 minutes you’ll experience many of the benefits and they’ll stay with you all day!
Whether you decide to use the app, box breathe or even just focus on breathing through your nose… as a recovered mouth breather I know it’s worth the effort.