Now that we are familiar with the health benefits of breathing, we can move onto the practical applications. Firstly, it is important to understand that there are a several breathing-related variables that can be adjusted, dependent on the situation and on the desired physical/bodily change that we are after. For example, mouth breathing may be best for a heavy resistance training workout in order to ramp up the fight or flight response in the body, whereas nasal breathing may be better for a short pre- bedtime meditation in order to calm the nervous system down. In addition, tempo of breathing can be adjusted; for example, long exhalations help relax tight muscles and breath-holds cause a reduction in heart rate. Of the hundreds of breathing variations we might play with, below I’ve outlined two that can
be used anywhere and at any time in order to reduce anxiety and improve energy levels, respectively.
1) The 4-7-8 breath protocol is a method developed by Dr. Andrew Weil that has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety, improve digestion, and decrease pain, among a long list of other benefits. The protocol is simple: A 4-second inhalation, followed by a 7-second hold at the top of the inhale, followed by an 8-second exhalation. The inhalation should be done through the nose, the body should be consciously relaxed during the hold, and the exhalation should be done slowly and audibly through the mouth. The breathing should be done with the diaphragm (i.e. breathing deep into the belly as opposed to the upper chest and neck area).
2) The Wim Hof method is used for improving energy levels and decreasing inflammation. Created by multiple world-record holder Wim Hof, it is absolutely one of the most beneficial things that I have personally been practicing for the last few years for improving my health and overall quality of life. One round of the Wim Hof method is as follows: 30 to 40 hyperventilation breaths (a sharp, forceful inhalation to maximum capacity, followed by a passive exhale), followed by a long breath-hold at the bottom of the last exhalation (e.g. after the 40th breath), followed by one last inhale and 10-second breath hold upon feeling the need to breathe again. Again, that constitutes one round. Multiple rounds are suggested, but for convenience’s sake, one is often enough.
To reiterate, there are many different breathing protocols that can be used to improve anything from mental clarity to gastrointestinal function. At the end of the day though, consistent and conscious deep breathing is the real driving force behind all the health changes. Variations like the 4-7-8 or the Wim Hof method are just exaggerated iterations of what really is a simple and fundamental human process. If you need a refresher as to why we need to be focusing on our breathing, refer to part one of this blog series. Cheers! And if you’d like to know more about, and start taking responsibility for your own health, fitness, and wellness, please reach out to Crux Fitness Richmond for any of your personal training needs.
Pat Koo – Personal Trainer at Crux Fitness Richmond
*Photo by Dmitry Ermakov