As we come to a close on 2020 (peace out, dumpster fire!), I hope all of you are healthy and safe. This has no doubt been the most challenging year of our lifetimes and strained in so many ways (emotionally, financially, physically). There is one thing, however, that every single one of you reading this right now have, and that is your breath, or prana (life force). Your breath is one of the most powerful tools you have. It is free, it comes naturally and it can be harnessed at any time, for any reason, in any place. Breath work has changed my life (and majorly Dave’s – no sleep aid for almost 2 months after many years!) for the better. You know that shallow, rushed breathing that comes from your throat and chest when you’re stressed and anxious? Breath work is basically the complete opposite of that state. It allows you to breathe deep into and from your belly and diaphragm, slowing your heart rate, blood pressure and slow your entire sympathetic nervous system (your fight or flight stress hormones, also known as adrenaline and cortisol) by activating your vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for bringing you back down).
Breath work has been used for centuries and for good reason. I first became really interested and convinced of the power of the breath when I heard Aubrey Marcus on a podcast, discussing Wim Hoff, the “Ice Man”. I then read his book “Own the Day, Own Your Life” (or listened on Audible, rather) I forgot about it and was doing Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing method each morning then started to hear his name come up a lot like it was a coincidence but not really? I found his app and YouTube page for the guided breath work, which is the most transformative 10 minutes of your day, I swear! You do 3 rounds of inhaling and exhaling with a breath hold at the end of each round, and I feel like I injected pure bliss into my veins. It’s like getting high without all the terrible things that come with drugs. I also turned Dave onto it with all my raving about “how is this possible?” and “omg, I am so much less stressed”, etc. I now hear him doing Wim Hoff’s guided breathing in the bathroom every night and he stopped taking Benadryl to sleep, something he was doing for years. He says he actually sleeps better now and I have no doubt that his sleep quality has improved significantly.
I also tap into the powers of the breath during my daily (I try) Melissa Wood Health workouts. She has an entire video library in which she adds new videos regularly, along with a weekly schedule you can follow if you like that structure (and she offers a free week to try it first). While I love the toning, stretching and lengthening I get from the pilates/yoga based flows, I am especially in love with the connection of the breath to the movement. It’s like a moving meditation and you can literally feel the shift within yourself after the class. She also has some guided meditation videos that are quick and effective. You feel like your soul is glowing after listening to her voice!
Lastly, the most simple method of breathing that I like to invoke is the OG, Dr. Andrew Weil (do you remember him collabing with Origins skin care in the 90s and utilizing the powers of mushrooms?!) 4-7-8 Breathing Method. It’s so easy, and you can literally do it anywhere. Here it is:
Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, let the tip of your tongue rest on the roof of your mouth.
Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth:
Inhale for a count of 4
Hold for a count of 7
Exhale for a count of 8
Repeat 6 times
What you’ll get from using your breath in this way:
- Reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improves lung and immune function, which we all really benefit from right now during this pandemic (the lungs especially)
- Improving circulation and stimulating the lymphatic system (Kundalini yoga is also great for this purpose – try Den Meditation’s live stream classes at denanywhere.com. The breath work class is so magical and so are the Kundalini classes).
- Boosts energy – I am not even playing when I tell you that my energy levels are soaring after breath work, in a weird energized, yet calm way. I get super focused and productive too.
- Better sleep
- Enhanced creativity
- Improved mental clarity
- Help develop or increase self-awareness
- It’s free
- It’s portable – you can do it in your home, office, car, grocery store line, or like me, hide in the bathroom in the morning 😊
While we all look to a new year and the release of 2020, I think it’s so important to provide ourselves with simple outlets and stress relief right now, today. There are so many moments throughout my day that I stop to just take a deep breath and slow my mental roll…and it provides that pause that I need before my next action and a shift in perspective that is so helpful One last tip…try a few drops of CBD along with your breathing and thank me later when you’re zenned out and living your best life!
I hope you try one or all of these methods and incorporate breath work into your life. You will be SO glad you did! Let me know what works for you!