Breath Is Life
Have you ever asked yourself, when we lose weight, where does it go? Most common answer is IN THE POTTY! But we actually exhale most of it.
In fact, 70% of the detoxification of our body occurs through respiration.
When we commonly say that fat is being “burned” it really means it's being "oxidized" – by the energy demands of living. This oxidized fat is mostly converted to CO2 that we expel, and the rest becomes water.
Thus, the lungs are the main excretory organ for weight loss.
Of course, better + more breathing, more oxidation of fat, better results.
When it comes to breathing…The Nose Knows
In biology, a commonly used trope is "Form fits Function."
Think about your mouth and your nose for a moment: which one do you think is better designed for breathing and which one for eating and talking?
All I know is, the last time I put a taco up my nose it didn’t end well.
The benefits of nose breathing include:
- Warms and humidifies inhaled air, protecting the airway and lungs in cold or dry environments.
- Sinuses are built as a bacteria trap – a first line of defense of our immune system.
- Produces nitric oxide, a gas that combats bacteria and viruses in airborne particles, regulates blood pressure, and boosts immunity.
- Helps us maintain homeostasis by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (the Rest & Digest System) protecting us from stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
- Helps us maintain optimal blood oxygen saturation, meaning enhanced focus, strength, and stamina.
- Reduces the incidence of dry mouth and nasal congestion.
- The nose houses olfactory bulbs, which are direct extensions of part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for many functions in our bodies, particularly those that are automatic, such as heartbeat, blood pressure, thirst, appetite and sleep cycles (Master Circadian Clock). The hypothalamus is also responsible for generating chemicals that influence memory and emotion.
But THIS May Be Most Important…
Breathing influences Emotion and Emotion influences Breathing – and Emotion is the greatest driver of behavior, which produces the results in our life.
So…Breathing -> Emotion -> Behavior -> RESULTS
Breathing patterns exist in a bidirectional relationship with emotional states.
We’re all familiar with the way we breathe when we’re in danger and scared, or even wake up from a nightmare. All of the physiological signs of fear are there: heart racing, sweaty, wide-eyed, with rapid and shallow breaths through the mouth.
So just like the nightmare where the body responds to what the brain is interpreting is happening, even though it is not objectively “real,” we can elicit these unhealthy bodily responses with our thinking and emotions, whether we are aware of them or not.
This makes obvious sense to us, but what is less obvious is that it works the other way around, too.
When you are shallow breathing most of your day, you are reinforcing your body being in a keyed up state. This then encourages anxious thoughts, to which the body responds with more shallow breathing, and the feedback loop spins on and on. This contributes to that all-too-common chronic stress type of life, and the ensuing health risks.
Conversely, by breathing slowly and deeply, as you would if you were super relaxed on the beach in the Caribbean, you will begin to shift the physiological status of your body towards actually being relaxed and calm. In fact, as little as 6 deep, slow breaths can significantly alter mood and curb stress.
Since experts agree that most people breathe at 10-20% of their overall capacity, I’m handing you an easy way to be well above average!
Up Your Breathing Game
One good breath looks like this:
- Sit or stand in a way that your ribs are free to expand. Think “proud chest.”
- Breathe in through your nose. Nasal breathing is linked to the rest & digest mode of the nervous system as mentioned earlier.
- 3 Dimensional Breathing: Try to feel bringing air not just into your belly, but expanding your ribs OUT to the sides, and breathe into your back. So rather than trying to fill a balloon in just your belly (or your default may have been your chest), think of your entire torso as a tube to fill in all directions - all the way down to your pelvic floor.
- Exhale SLOWLY through your nose. This should be longer than your inhale.
Box Breathing Technique:
This simple breathing technique reduces stress, encourages calm and control, and improves mental focus and mood. Even Navy Seals are taught this technique.
Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold empty for 4 seconds. Bust this out any time you want a break!
This technique is a great precursor to counting sheep. It will slow your brain waves down several gears and help you drift off.
Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale through the nose for 8 seconds. Repeat. If these durations feel too tough at first, do what you can until you work up to this ratio.
In my high performance health coaching practice, we use a 30 day nasal breathing neurological reprogramming hack using the below tools while sleeping. This results in a strong shift of autonomic preference toward nasal breathing with loads of health, sleep quality, and performance benefits. (Do not try this if you have sleep apnea. As always, talk with your doctor.)
Sleep Strips by SomniFix
Breathe Right Strips