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Breathing: Is it Part of Your Lifestyle?

by Mila McManus, MD

Our breath has enormous, life-giving power. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of our breathing.

Breathing has enormous, life-giving power and perhaps we take it for granted or don’t think about it much. But the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our breathing.

We cannot think about health and wellness without thinking intentionally about our breathing. The way we breathe directly impacts our emotional and physical states. When you are stressed, you may have noticed that you barely breathe at all.  During an anxiety attack or moment of panic, our breathing can become rapid, causing hyperventilation. Adam Hadhazy suggests in “Fear Factor: Dopamine May Fuel Your Dread, Too.”[1], that we can even become addicted to our anxiety as a result of the dopamine secreted to cope with the anxiety. Dopamine is made in the brain and secreted into the blood stream as part of the brain’s reward system.  

How we breathe affects our mood, energy, mental clarity, and calmness. That’s an old and well known concept. Originating from India thousands of years ago, yoga has taught the importance of how we breathe. Biblical teachings from Jewish tradition include our breath and life coming from God and giving understanding and thus calmness, meaning being still and having no anxiety.[2] In many languages, dialects, and religions, breath is synonymously used for spirit, soul, life, and life energy.[3]

Here are several simple techniques[4] that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle to increase your health, mental clarity, spirit, and soul.

The Navy SEAL Way – To calm the nervous system, mind, and emotions, Navy SEALs are taught to inhale for a four count through the nose and exhale to a count of four through the mouth. They also teach an 8/8 pattern, slowing down breathing to an inhalation lasting 8 seconds and then exhaling for 8 seconds.

 While You Walk – Take a minute to do this “segmented” 4/4 pattern while you walk. Inhale for four seconds, then hold that breath for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds, then hold your breath again for four seconds before inhaling again. This rhythmically synchronizes your breath and your steps.

Oxygenation for Detoxification – this method promotes elimination of toxins and stimulates the lymph system while enhancing energy, state of mind, and sense of well-being. The pattern or ratio is 1:4:2. For example, an 8:32:16 ratio is to inhale for eight seconds, hold your breath for thirty-two seconds and exhale for sixteen seconds. Determine your ratio depending on your natural capacity and comfort. You could do 6:24:12 or whatever ratio works for you.

Teaching yourself and your children (or grandchildren, students, patients, clients, friends) these techniques can be a great way to improve quality of life and cope with daily stressors.

Make it part of your lifestyle. Breathe well, Live well.

[1] Adam Hadhazy, “Fear Factor: Dopamine May Fuel Dread, Too,” Scientific American, July 14,2008, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fear-factor-dopamine/.

[2] Job 32:8

[3] https://manabreathwork.com/history-of-breathwork

[4] Tony Robbins, (2022). Life force: How new breakthroughs in precision medicine can transform the quality of your life & those you love.(12,292-293)

By |2023-01-10T13:02:00-05:00January 11th, 2023|General|