How to breathe for health every day
The first time I tried breathwork was in yoga class. Until then I had never really thought about breathing. I just did it all day and night, like most people. Doing yoga that first time, I learned to match my breathing to the yoga poses and movements, which turns out to be super relaxing!
I carried on learning about breathwork whilst exploring yoga and meditation. Eventually, it got it’s own special place in my life. Breathwork is amazing and can be incorporated into everyone’s daily life. Plus it’s great for your health!
If you’ve never tried breathwork before, now is the time! If you have, try out a new technique or deepen your current practice. In the book “Just Breathe – Mastering Breathwork” Dan Brulé explains breathwork and offers tons of techniques you can try out at home. I’ve got some of them for you here.
I’m constantly learning so that I can expand the tools and strategies I share on my channels and with clients. In this post, I discuss a book that I’ve read, find amazing, and believe is worth sharing with my community! You can buy Just Breathe here. When you buy books through links on my site, we may get a small commission, with no extra cost to you. This allows us to continue our mission to provide women worldwide with better support and access to important health topics that help women feel and show up their best.
Why focus on breath?
Breath plays an important role in your stress levels and your health. Depending on how you breathe, you can increase or decrease your stress level. That’s because your breath is connected to your nervous system.
For example, if you breathe through your mouth, you stimulate the sympathetic nervous system aka your fight or flight. Breathing through your nose stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system aka your rest or digest state.
Parasympathetic vs. sympathetic nervous system
Throughout the day you constantly switch between these two nervous system states. Ideally, you’re mostly in the parasympathetic mode. In this state, you’re able to digest, heal and feel relaxed.
These functions don’t work optimally in the sympathetic mode. Ever realized you’re bloated after eating when you were super stressed out? That’s because in this mode your body focuses on fueling muscles instead of your digestion.
In moments of stress, your body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, making your heart beat faster and getting you ready to run or fight.
The catch is that in our modern world, we trigger this stress response, even when we are not in danger. Maybe your boss shouted at you or you’re worried about bills. Any perceived stressor can move us into the sympathetic mode.
Luckily there are also many ways to move into the parasympathetic mode. Besides balancing stress better, there are tons of breath practices that promote relaxation, focus, and calm. Read on for a few you can easily try out at home and throughout your day.
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One of the most simple breath practices is breath awareness. That means simply paying attention to your breath. Realize how you breathe when you’re calm, tired, angry, excited, or stressed.
Try it now! If you feel like it, you can place a hand on your chest and one on your belly to see how your body moves when you breathe.
Are you breathing:
- Into your belly or chest?
- Deep or shallow?
- Fast or slow?
- Through your mouth or nose?
Breath awareness is essentially a mindfulness practice. They have loads of benefits, including helping us to regulate our emotions and destress.
Paying attention to your breath every day can work wonders. Try spending a little time on your breath in the morning, midday, and evening. It doesn’t even have to be for a long time, 2 or 3 minutes is already amazing for your body.
Set a timer (or multiple) on your phone so you don’t forget. You can also try habit stacking. That means you practice breath awareness after or before an established habit, like brushing your teeth in the morning, eating lunch midday, and brushing your teeth in the evening.
Breathing at the rate of 6 breaths per minute has many benefits, including improved heart rate variability and blood flow. While 6 breaths sound like very little, it just means that your inhales and exhales are 5 counts long.
To practice at home (or out and about) get comfortable. Sit down and take a minute to calm down, start breathing and counting in your head:
Inhale, 2, 3, 4, 5
Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5
Inhale, 2, 3, 4, 5
Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5
Play with this breath for different amounts of time. How do you feel after breathing like this for 3 minutes? 10?
Also, pay attention to your sensations. What do your muscles feel like? Is there any tension? How does your body feel? What emotions are you experiencing?
For optimal relaxation breathe through your nose and into your belly. Not sure where your breath is going? Place a hand on our belly. On every inhale try to expand your belly so that your hand is pushed outwards.
For when you’re stressed
Ever feel stressed and overwhelmed? Most women have these moments every day: kids, work, or societal expectations, you name it!
A technique called box breath or square breathing (one of my faves!) can be super helpful when you’re in one of those situations.
Here’s how it works:
Inhale, 2, 3, 4
Hold, 2, 3, 4,
Exhale, 2, 3, 4
Hold, 2, 3, 4
Repeat this pattern for at least 2 minutes. It should help to calm you down and start feeling more relaxed.
‘”Include ritual to destress before you’re stressed.”
It’s super easy to incorporate breath into your everyday life. There are lots of situations, where you can use your breath to destress and relax.
Including little rituals for relaxation before you’re actually stressed is great for keeping your body in the parasympathetic mode.
It’s best to not do all your breathwork in the morning or evening. Try to space it out throughout the day. Have many short moments to simply focus on your breath.
Here are some ideas. Pick and chose the ones that you like and can manage regularly, throughout your day:
- Start the morning or end the evening by stretching and breathing. Sync your breathing to your movements. Yoga is awesome at combing the two. There are awesome yoga channels on YouTube for guidance. My favorite is the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. Completely free and full of fun!
- Combine breathing with walking or running. You can also try different lengths of inhales, exhales, and holds. Your steps are a great way to count and keep track.
- During showers, you can take a moment to breathe, focus on the sensations you feel, and prepare for your day or wind down for sleep.
- Embrace traffic! Instead of getting angry, accept the situation and breath through negative feelings.
- Next time you feel a headache or fatigue pay attention to your breath. Imagine and visualize the pain or fatigue being gathered with your inhale and traveling out with every exhale.
Including breath in your life
Breath practices work best when they’re regular. Dan Brulé recommends the 10x10x10 approach.
That means breathing consciously for 10 minutes every morning and evening, and also for 2 minutes 10 times throughout the day.
If this works for you right away, awesome! But you might need a little more time to incorporate this into your schedule. Play around to find what works for your needs and situation.
The most important part is to just get started. A little is already better than nothing. Chose a breath technique and give it a try today. Tomorrow you might chose to do the same or find that a different technique works better.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we’re all wonderfully unique.
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Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT
Hi, I'm Laurie, a functional nutritionist and board certified health coach, athlete, dog-mom, and biohacking adventure-lover. After having struggled for years to find lasting solutions for my own debilitating hormone-related symptoms, I created my online practice to begin helping other active, driven women get the support they need. I now help women around the world elevate their health, energy, business and life by optimizing their hormones with personalized nutrition and lifestyle tweaks. Together, we discover new tools and strategies that keep you showing up at your best so you can play even bigger in your life and work.
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