Within seconds of being born, the babies lungs come into action and start gasping for air. This is your first breath! I’m now 55, and my lungs haven’t stopped working since ( Thank God !), averaging around 16 breaths a minute for a resting adult – or 23,000 a day. By the time I turned 55, I will have inhaled and exhaled roughly 462 million times. You’d think, with all that practise, we’d all be experts at respiration. Well, it appears not! The vast majority of human beings are totally unaware of their bad breathing habits. I know all too well this feeling, so I have come up with these 5 Breathing tips to better your health, so we can all carry on breathing in a more efficient way whilst improving our health!
It turns out that, we have always been taught that in order to breathe efficiently we need to take a huge lung full of air and a massive exhale. This would support the common belief that one needs to mouth breathe and get rid of as much Co2 as possible. This is now classed as Over breathing and tends to bypass many important stages in the breathing process.
However, with slow, silent-like nasal breathing, you can oxygenate the body far more efficiently than with mouth breathing. The health benefits of nose breathing range from improving sleep, eliminating snoring and sleep apnea, reducing inflammation, enhancing memory and an overall increase in your immune system function.
In general newborn babies tend to exclusively use nasal breathing. I wonder why only 30 % of adults are still nose breathers. This is time to retrain these forgotten skills. These next 5 tips will retrain them, improve your health, dampen your stress levels and make a massive difference to your sleep quality.
So let’s start now, close your mouth, breathe through your nose as you read these next paragraphs.
These following tips are based on the Buteyko Breathing Concept.
Breathing tip nº 1 – Buteyko Breathing:
According to its creator, a Russian physician, when you stop breathing from your mouth and instead engage in slow, deep, almost silent nasal breathing, you oxygenate your tissues and organs far more efficiently. This breathing keeps you from excessive oxygen ( O2) consumption and also excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) exhalation. When you breathe in through your nose, the air is warmed, moistened, conditioned and mixed with nitric oxide (NO). This NO neutralises germs, bacteria and works as a vasodilator on your airways, arteries and capillaries.
I know you are probably thinking this is counter-intuitive, I did too at the beginning. I was always told that efficient breathing was lungs full of air and a big exhale. After listening to Patrick Mckeown, author of the book “ The Oxygen Advantage “, I realised I was over-breathing. But after more research and especially more practice of the Buteyko Breathing, I felt how powerful and yet gentle this technique truly is.
How to do the Buteyko Breathing?
The control-pause technique (CP):
- Rest for ten minutes prior to this technique.
- Next start gently breathing through your nose.
- Then after a normal exhale, squeeze the tip of your nose, and time yourself.
- When you are feeling the slightest need to take a breath, inhale, and check the time.
- If you were able to hold for more than 10 seconds, for example, your CP is 10. A good CP is 30 seconds and Buteyko claimed that with a CP of sixty seconds, “ he/she is insured against illness”. Mine is at 35 seconds now so although it’s not bad there is room for improvement. Hence why I consciously nasal breath throughout the day, and when I do some exercise, I maintain it as much as possible. My goal is to be able to engage in any type of moderate to high-intensity workout whilst nasal breathing.
- Mouth Taping: Just tape your mouth before going to sleep so you oblige your body to learn nasal breathing. Test it first during the day by putting some tape on your mouth and start nasal breathing. No air should be able to go through your mouth. Once tested, you can simply fall asleep confident that all through the night you will continue nasal breathing. There is a tape called Somnifix that uses a hypoallergenic adhesive with fewer chemicals. Some people apply a thin layer of olive oil on their lips so the tape removal process is easy and less painful.
Breathing tip nº 2- Nostril breathing:
- If you want to activate the left side of the body for example, just breathe in through the right nostril (keeping in mind that the right side of the brain is associated with the left side of the body and vice versa). So, in practical terms, if you need to engage in a creative/ artistic task (right brain), you will need to breathe for 1 to 2 minutes from your left nostril only. The opposite would be if you have a more logical, analytical or mathematical task to achieve (left brain) you will prepare yourself by breathing for 1 to 2 minutes with your right nostril.
- Another application of this breathing would be prior to going to sleep, breathe through your left nostril for a few minutes. This is an effective way of activating the parasympathetic nervous system and further deepening your relaxation.
- Alternate nostril breathing is also used in Kundalini Yoga as a potent stress-reducing tactic.
- Press your thumb on the left nostril and gently breath out through the right nostril.
– Then gently breathe in through the right nostril, press the right nostril with a different finger.
– Remove the thumb from your left nostril and exhale.
– Finally, breathe in through the left nostril, press the thumb on it again and repeat.
Breathing tip nº 3- Box Breathing:
This technique is part of the Navy Seal training, it helps to stay calm and focused even in the most stressful of situations. This technique is easy and effective; close your mouth and slowly inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, then hold for 4 seconds and repeat. This will quickly put you back in a state of calm and control.
When you are more advanced to can try to do the same but to the count of 5, 6 and so on. For me, this breathing tip works wonder just before bed. Just 5 minutes of Box breathing is enough to totally unwind and prepare me for a night of good night sleep. Trust me, it’s worth trying!
Breathing tip nº 4 – Equal breathing
Equal breathing is known as sama vritti in Sanskrit. This breathing technique focuses on making your inhales and exhales the same length. Making your breath smooth and steady can help bring about balance and equanimity.
You should find a breath length that is not too easy and not too difficult. You also want it to be too fast, so that you’re able to maintain it throughout the practice. Usually, this is between 3 and 5 counts.
Once you get used to equal breathing while seated you can do it during your yoga practice or other daily activities.
To do it:
- Choose a comfortable seated position.
- Breathe in and out through your nose.
- Count during each inhale and exhale to make sure they are even in duration. Alternatively, choose a word or short phrase to repeat during each inhale and exhale.
- You can add a slight pause or breath retention after each inhale and exhale, only if it feels comfortable. (Normal breathing involves a natural pause.)
- Continue practising this breath for at least 5 minutes.
What’s more, this study has shown that a rate of 5,5 breaths minute with equal inhalation to exhalation ratio is optimal for total relaxation. Once you reach this harmonious breathing rhythm of inhaling and exhaling for a count of five or more, you will notice changes in the nervous system. Your body will shift from the sympathetic nervous system—that fight-or-flight mode—to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the digest-and-rest mode.
Breathing tip nº 5 – Breath-hold walks;
Walking in nature is one of my favourite and most basic longevity hacks. Living in Mallorca, in Puerto Pollensa to be precise we have immediate access to a long & spectacular seafront. So every evening before curfew time, my wife and I would power walk several times the full length of the beachfront and admire the ever-changing scenery.
I have decided to spice things up during our walks by adding a breath-holding activity.
On the seafront for example, when I would pass a lamppost, I would take a deep belly breath, carry on walking whilst holding my breath. When I’d feel the need to breathe again I would inhale slowly through my nose. Then carry on walking to the next lamp post, and repeat the same procedure.
After a few months of playing with this exercise, I can almost hold my breath for a distance between 2 lamp posts. And with a bit of more practice, it would send me into a slight meditative state.
What’s my take on this :
Breathing is my number one longevity hacks. So for me, the Buteyko Breathing has become an important part of my daily routine. After a few months of nasal breathing, it has become more natural to me. I can go about my daily activities without taking air through my mouth. It was almost as if I was revisiting this “ forgotten art“.
However, It will take longer to achieve the same level of ease whilst engaging in moderate to high-intensity physical activities. I have experienced massive improvements in my freediving capacity and a general sense of calm and more mental focus throughout the day. Most importantly I have reconnected with the way nature intended me to breathe.
For me, nasal breathing is a non-negotiable skill to master, to optimize my health and propel me along my journey to 100.
I hope this helps you too, and somehow ignites your interest to practise these 5 breathing tips to better your health.
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart Living To 100.
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