Studies indicate that at least 80% of the population in the US is breathing wrong. This has a massive impact on our health and I’m going to explain why as plainly as I can. As you read this, see if you can breathe more or less like this:
1) Slowly through your nose (aim for 5 seconds in, and 5 seconds out)
(if you have a difficult time with this, keep at it! Your body will adapt over time)
2) Deflating from more of your chest as you exhale all the way
3) Inflating from more of your belly as you inhale, expanding your ribs towards your arms
4) Keep your tongue held lightly against the roof of your mouth
Now here is what is happening to your body and mind as a result of doing the above. and by the time you finish reading, you should be able to feel it too. Everything listed below is pulled from peer reviewed research.
- Every single long exhalation positively stimulates the vagus nerve, which shifts the nervous system towards that more calm, relaxed state. Part of why this happens is when our respiratory rate slows, more of the chemical (acetylcholine) that stimulates our calm response is released. [95–98]
- Inflammation throughout the entire body is reduced. Posture begins to naturally improve.
- 80% of the fat we burn exits through our exhale as carbon dioxide. Think of it like a car exhaust, let it get that waste all the way out.
- Lung capacity increases. In all studies oriented around lung capacity, larger = longer, healthier lives.
- Since you’re switching from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system activation, you’ll put less stress on your upper back, as this is where most of your sympathetic (stress) nerves are located.
- More accurately than switching, you’re balancing systems, achieving “optimal sympathovagal balance” which actually enhances your system’s ability to automatically respond to stress effectively.
- All this vagus nerve activation might even help stop hiccups!
- Your blood pressure and heart rate will both naturally go down – within minutes!
- You will capture more of the oxygen from your inhale, as you are giving your lungs more time to absorb it, reducing “dead air space” and increasing athletic performance. Simply by breathing through your nose you will increase tissue oxygenation by 10%.
- Inhaling through the nose filters the air of pollutants, improves posture (yes, really!), and brings Nitrous Oxide from your nasal passageway into your lungs. This has a calming effect and decreases your susceptibility to airborne pathogens, viruses, and parasites. It (NO) will actually kill bacteria that enters your airways. NO is what helps deliver blood to your cells and nasal breathing increases it sixfold.
- The blood flow in your lungs becomes more uniform with some areas receiving up to 25% more blood, and there is a greater gas exchange of gasses due to the weight of the NO gas.
- Blood flow to your organs will improve, blood flow in general will improve, and your memory and learning capacity will be enhanced.
- Your heart rate will harmonize with your breath causing a “resonant frequency effect” which brings your heart rate variability (a key indicator for better sleep, stronger recovery, and overall health) to its optimal state. [36, 38, 83]
- Your brainwaves will settle into the “alpha” range, which is our calm, focused, relaxed state of mind. In fact, many of the same benefits as meditation and yoga can be achieved just by breathing well.
- When breathing through our noses we align with a natural homeostasis response rhythm. You know how sometimes one nostril is closed? That’s because your body is trying to regulate temperature and either generate more calm, or more energy, to balance itself.
- Your sleep, and breath will improve, and your teeth will become more resistant to cavities – potentially even more than if you stopped eating sugar.
- Your body will entrain itself to adopt this state of wellbeing more easily, quickly, and often. Eventually, your default state will completely switch over to this relaxed, focused, calm and content parasympathetic operating mode. Studies have shown that regular practice can achieve this in as little as three months.
Now that you have finished this list, and hopefully maintained an improved breath at the same time, you can both feel and know enough to carry on with an effortless conviction to change your breath for good. This only barely begins to capture the benefits of breathing as your body was designed to do.
You breathe about 25,000 times a day. Each breath is impacting your health in so many ways I’ve begun to say that if I’m not breathing right, I’m doing everything else wrong. Think of your breath like a paddle. The more shallow and quickly you row, the slower you move towards where you want to be.
If you’re looking to improve your health, this is your lucky day because this is simultaneously the best and easiest thing you can do and if you followed the suggestion at the beginning, you’ve already started.
To your health – Tennyson
P.S. A well written book on the subject of Breath that I highly recommend is “Breath” by James Nestor (pictured above). I listened to the audible version and really enjoyed his narrating style. This book changed my breath, and that has completely changed my life.