Breathing. Seems pretty simple right? You do this simple task about 8 million times a year. You’ve been doing this since you were born, but what if I told you that you could be doing it wrong? What if I told you that the way you breathe could be a significant contributor to why you’re not sleeping or performing well or why you're having chronic respiratory inflammation? James Nestor covers all of this and more in one of my favorite books this year, Breath.
When I work with clients, we usually don’t tackle the huge problem first. It’s too big and truthfully isn’t the reason the client is not making progress. Progress is made daily...in the small routines...the habits that we have formed (and have formed us) over the years. The real magic to any true transformation is changing the things we do every day and making them better, healthier and more efficient. If the client can do that, that big problem that has been facing them usually goes away on its own. To witness it is awesome. Power in simplicity. And today I’m talking to you about a simple task, breathing through your nose.
First off, I don’t think a daily dose of nasal breathing is going to cure every ailment known to mankind. However, I do believe that everyone could see huge improvements to their day-to-day life with as little as 6 minutes of daily practice (I’ll go into this later). Deep nasal breathing has been shown to decrease stress, improve immunity, increase energy, lower blood pressure and improve digestion (just to name a few). With all of the benefits of breathing, why aren’t we focusing on it more? Probably because you’ve been doing it for years and it’s working out fine right? Well, what if you knew you had a limited amount of breaths left in your life. Would you still be breathing at the rate you are now? I don’t know about you, but as soon as I think about that and see my wife and two kids, I start slowing my breathing down!
You might not like hearing this, but we all have a problem with excess. Too much food, too much screen time, too much work...but too much air? Yes, and it was probably one of the biggest takeaways from reading this book. We are programmed to think more is better...but it is rapidly turning us into a very unhealthy population. It turns out that most of us are breathing too fast...that oxygen that we are taking in is just being exhaled back out. What if I told you that your body becomes more efficient at taking in oxygen when you slow down your breathing rate? That’s right, by slowing down your breathing you actually increase your oxygen levels. We’re actually making our bodies work harder...increasing overall stress and shortening our lives.
Here’s a breathing practice you can do everyday. It’s simple and only takes 6 minutes. Take out your phone or watch and start a timer. I want you to count your total breaths over the course of the six minutes. Our goal is 33. Thirty-three inhales and thirty-three exhales. It breaks down to 5.5 breaths per minute. Start by trying to make your exhales the same length as your inhales. As you get really good at this, start extending your exhales. That’s it...simple right? Now, I’d love to have you do this morning, noon and night, but I realize that is a whopping 18 minutes of your day (that was a joke). To start out, let’s do this first thing in the morning. Shoot, you can even do it while laying in bed after you hit the snooze button. In fact, you might just find it’s the kick you need to get out and get your day going!
Remember, the nose is like a muscle; you either use it or lose it. No, your nose is not going to fall off your face, but if you breathe through your mouth and neglect nose breathing, it has the ability to change bone density, face shape, and more. Your nose is not stuck one way forever. By using good posture, chewing well, and breathing through the nose, you can reverse the damage of the past. With nasal breathing and slowing our breath, we can absorb more oxygen, decrease stress, and increase longevity. Start your day with six minutes of daily practice to better your body.