When do we focus on breath? Probably only when we have to. Let me give you an example. Today you decide to go and try a new exercise class at the gym. You’ve seen the ads. Friends rave about it and how great they feel afterward. It’s Monday after work you decide to try it out. You walk in and are nervous and feel self-conscious but you’ve made up your mind to see this through. You pick a spot in the back of the class where you won’t be easily seen or get in anybody’s way. The class starts easily with a warm-up and a few exercises. The stiffness starts to ease its way out of your muscles and you start thinking “This isn’t that bad. I’ve got this.” Then the class shifts into second gear, the intensity goes up and you move faster to keep up. You have to stop as every molecule in your body is screaming for rest. Panic sets in and you can’t take in enough air. That feeling stays with you, the feeling of being out of control. What happened? One second you were fine and then out of nowhere, the air was being taken from your lungs. Have you had this experience before?
What if you could have a choice in the matter? When you learn to breathe deeper and fuller your experience would be like merging onto the highway, instead of getting hit by a truck.
Your breath has a big influence on your nervous system. Look in the mirror and take a deep inhale. Watch which part of your moves the most. If your chest and shoulders lifted then you are breathing with your emergency breathing muscles. This turns on your sympathetic nervous system, elevating cortisol, and raising anxiety. Are you breathing that way all the time? It will start to affect your energy levels, your immune system, and your ability to get a deep, restful night’s sleep. If we learn to breathe into the bottom of our lungs we turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest system. Now our body is working for us to conserve energy. It can lower anxiety and heart rate. It increases intestinal and gland activity. Everything that allows us to recuperate and repair damage. You are able to handle what the day throws at you.
Now when you go to exercise, your energy is up. When your body is screaming for oxygen, you can rise to meet that demand. You will recover more during your rest periods and feel ready to attack that next set with vitality and strength. Cardio becomes more pleasurable instead of a chore. At the end of an exercise class, you feel alive and happy. Maybe you even flirt with the idea of taking two classes! The more you practice the better it gets. Below, Matt Barrack shows you how to use easy, practical, no fuss, no muss techniques to de-stress just by breathing. To take in more air means we take in more life. Let’s get started!
Practice these drills 5 or 10 minutes every day. Enjoy the new sensations. See what kind of new potential it creates in your life. Remember everything starts with your breath. Every breath is an opportunity for a new beginning.