I love to breathe, don't you?. It's cool and keeps you alive and stuff.
But, breath is also a powerful tool. Breathing is a unique body process which is part autonomic and part voluntary.
You keep breathing even when you don't you don't think about it. However, you can grab the reins at any time.
I have spent many years doing breath training. It's a key to physiological, even mental health.
Consider the body / mind like a giant feedback loop. For example, how do you know if you're anxious?
Well you might have a racing heart. You might experience some adrenaline dump symptoms. Your breathing is going to be rapid, and probably high in your chest.
So, what happens if you slow your breath down and drop it into your diaphragm? Well, you can actually dissolve anxiety. Your heart rate will drop, and many of the symptoms of an adrenalized state will be reduced.
The way you breathe affects the nervous system in many different ways. It also affects the body chemically.
For example, nitric oxide is produced in the nasal cavity and introduced in the body through nasal respiration. Nitric oxide is an important vasodilator - it increase blood flow and oxygenation. In fact, the little blue pill guys take to get frisky, works by enhancing nitric oxide.
If you want boners (boy boners or ladyboners) breathe through your nose.
Breath reflects and informs emotion. Want to get depressed? Copy the pace, depth and location of a depressed person's breathing.
How should you breathe for maximum mind-body awesomeness?
First let me say that I'm not a doctor, this isn't advice of any kind - especially medical, see your doctor, take your meds, don't start anything new without seeking medical advice.
Different breathing patterns are useful in different context, but here are some general rules:
1. Always breath through your nose. Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating. If you have a chronically blocked nose (due to polyps for example) - get it seen too. If you have a stuffy nose, there are exercises for unblocking it.
2. Slow it down - many people chronically over-breathe which leads to a pile of heath problems. Think about a person in the midst of a panic attack - their breathing is going to be rapid and high in their chest. Do the opposite.
3. Keep it low. Deep breathing means breathing from your diaphragm. Doing so, means that the air passes over the greatest surface area of your lung tissue and has a chance to do it's work.
4. Breathe gently. Deep breathing does not mean forcing your lungs to expand until they are about to burst. At rest, your breathing movements should be barely perceivable to others.
There's a lot of science around these recommendations. If you'd like to learn more, a book I've read recently which I recommend is The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown.
Until next time - keep breathing,