The idea of breath work was first introduced to me many years ago when I started taking yoga and Pilates classes. I loved the feeling of how well your body worked with your breath. Movement and exercise seemed to flow and be more tolerable by adding simple methods of breathing. It was very empowering to feel more in control over my intense workouts. It naturally became part of my exercise routine. Any avid exerciser or sports enthusiast appreciates breath work and uses it to help elevate their fitness and overcome mental challenges that come along with intense training.
Breath work means so much more to me than the ability to overcome a challenging workout. As many of you know, I suffered from an intense life altering illness. One of many elements I faced was ARDS, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. ARDS is a life-threatening lung injury where fluid leaks into the lungs. Breathing becomes very difficult and for me nearly impossible. The increase of fluid prevents the lungs from being able to fill with air for gas exchange. I am bringing this up because the breath work that I used all of the time in my workouts became critical part of what saved my life. It helped to keep me calm. As I wasn’t sure the severity of my illness at the time, I knew that breathing and my ability to keep calm were crucial in order to stabilize my health. So, I imagined as if I were running hill sprints and I focused on breathing. I counted in my head inhales and exhales over and over until I could feel my body relax enough to gain some relief. As I began to recover, breath work was obviously a major part of my healing. My lungs were totally destroyed by the infection and many physicians were concerned with how well my lungs would recover. I know that this is an extreme example of breath work and hopefully many of you will not be able to relate but the message I want to relay to you is that breath work is so POWERFUL!
The POWER of your breath can affect your entire body. Breathing gives you clarity, energy, connection, can reduce blood pressure and even help you obtain better sleep. Breathing can be an easy and simple addition to your daily routine. Start by adding breath work while waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning or the water kettle to heat for your tea. One simple method is box breathing: inhale for 4 counts, hold 4 courts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. Repeat for 8 cycles and feel the effects of mental clarity and regained energy. Adding breath work as part of your daily habit is a way of escaping from the stressful parts of your day. Take 5 minutes or even 1 minute from a stressful situation to center yourself and attain the clarity you need. Another favorite breathing technique of mine is Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. Start by placing the thumb of your right hand over your right nostril, place your index finger of the same hand over your left nostril. Now close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril very slowly. At the top pause with both nostrils closed then exhale through the right nostril. At the end of the exhale, hold for a moment then inhale through the right nostril and hold, exhale through the left. Repeat continuing to alternate between in inhales and exhales. Repeat for 5-6 cycles. What do you think? You can dive much deeper into breath work and I could go on and on about the ridiculous benefits of proper breathing but for now this is a great place to start! Enjoy!
My challenge to you this week is to try one of these breathing methods!