Over the weekend, I was dancing my heart out at a pre-burning man event. It was hot, and the music was loud, and I hadn't eaten in a while. I was slowing down on the dance floor, which I try to avoid! So, I took a moment to myself and started breathing deep long inhales with extra-long exhales. The more I breathed, the more I could feel my energy rising again. Then I exploded on the dance floor! Breaking down yet another song. But this time I kept breathing that deep breath even as I danced. This brought me focus, and energy, and flow! This is the power of breathwork!
Now, I'm not a breathwork facilitator, but I use breathwork in almost all of my workshops! A breathwork facilitator helps you go deeply into the breath for potentially hours and encourages you to continue (among other things). But the breathwork I deal in is shorter and for specific goals. We use the breath to enter certain states, to calm the mind, to excite the body, to build energy, or to enter meditative states. The breath is so powerful it can do all these things and so much more!
How can the breath be able to calm us and excite us? It's the same action, isn't it? Well, yes and no. Inhaling is inhaling and exhaling is exhaling, but we can play with the ratios, the intensities, the breaks between them, and which hole the breath comes out and in. All these things have been shown to dramatically change our experience. From changing our moods, to our energy, to our racing thoughts. The breath can regulate all sorts of things in our bodies!
Let's first look at the structures of breathing. The nose, the mouth, and the lungs! The nose is the premier organ for breathing! It has filters that help keep pollen, bacteria, viruses, dust, and particles out of the lungs! The mouth has no such structures. If you have seasonal allergies, try to breathe through your nose exclusively. This has been shown to reduce allergies. The nose is so well designed to take in breath, that the mouth is really just there as a backup. Since breathing is so important, the body was given an emergency backup valve to protect it. Treat mouth breathing as such, an emergency system for only when absolutely necessary.
If you want to explore more about this and way more about the breath, consider reading "Breath" by James Nestor. I've learned so many valuable things through this book! Now, let's explore some different breathworks!
The perfect breath. This one is great for almost anything. In fact, it's the ideal breath for natural living! Try to breathe like this as often as possible, but definitely don't try to be perfect! You'll inhale through the nose for 5.5 seconds, then exhale through the nose or mouth for 5.5 seconds with no break between the two! This is a long deep breath technique. It can help you focus, and be alert, while also calming the mind and body. This is a great all purpose breath, and it's the one I used in the beginning example to dance more!
Alternate Nostril Breathing. This one is amazing for getting you out of the mind and into the body! I use it in my workshops to bring balance to the nervous system and lower stress in the students. Most people have so much stress they can barely contain it, this breathing technique can actually lower the blood pressure! To do this one you're going to sit up straight and cover one nostril, then inhale. Only breathe through the nose on this one. Switch to covering the other nostril then exhale, and inhale again. Switch, then exhale and inhale. You're inhaling and exhaling through each nostril then switching. Keep the rhythm going for a few minutes to start feeling the effects.
Box Breathing. This breath can be powerful to calm the mind and focus on an important task in front of you. Navy Seals train with it to remain calm under pressure. So, I'm sure anything you're dealing with can be helped with this breath, too! It's an easy one to remember. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. It's like following the sides of a box, each equally distant. You can even play with the times, going for 7 seconds on each side, or even 2. Consistency is key here, keeping all sides the same length. Go for a few minutes to see how it feels, but you can do this breath whenever!
These are just a few of the breaths available to you. I hope you see how expansive the breath can be! And if there's anything you take home from this, it's to breathe through the nose as much as possible! Remember, the nose is designed to breathe, the mouth is an emergency backup to breathe.
INSPIRED ACTION: Choose one of the breaths and give it a good try. Focus on the breath, and allow your mind to relax. If the mind keeps interrupting, thank it, and tell it you don't need it right now, then immediately return to the breath. Fill your entire attention and focus with the breath. Take note of how you feel before you do the breath, then after!