During this series of articles about breathing, I’ve mentioned that the correct way of breathing is with your abdomen and diaphragm rather than your chest. When you breathe in, your abdomen should push out and when you breathe in, your abdomen should be pulled in. I’ve also written that oxygenated blood is pumped from your heart into your extremities where it is converted chemically into energy. Unoxygenated blood is returned to your heart to be reoxygenated, and the cycle repeats. I mentioned that the normal breathing cycle for adults is usually between 9 and 15 cycles per minute.
I’ve also written about how some people are advocating a new trend in breathing for physical and mental performance. I mentioned Wim Hof and his breathing techniques. Wim Hof’s breathing techniques are a form of hyperventilation where there is an excess of oxygen in the blood and a depletion of Carbon Dioxide.
This week, I’ll discuss controlled deep breathing, the benefits you get from it, and a specific technique that results in a balanced levels of highly oxygenated blood and carbon dioxide. Those benefits? Increased energy, reduced stress, a calm mind, and centered self-control. Since most older adults are very shallow breathers resulting in low oxygen levels in the bloodstream and low energy throughout the body, you may find this article useful.
Recently, there has been a lot of focus on controlled, deep, rhythmic breathing such as yoga breathing, Pilates style breathing, and meditation with its concentration of the breath. The main form of deep breathing that is being promoted is called “box breathing”. Don’t let the term throw you, it’s ultra-simple. It’s being promoted among Navy Seals, by Tony Robbins in his seminars, and even by Dave Asprey, the entrepreniural founder of “BulletProof Coffee” which is all the rage now (that’s a whole different article).
Box breathing is nothing more than taking a deep abdominal breath over a count of five, holding that breath for a second count of five, exhaling forcefully for a count of five while drawing the abdomen in, and finally holding the empty lungs for another five seconds. Simple, right? Yes, it really is. The actual count can vary as can the amount of time holding the breath. The benefits are simple: a calming of your mind, a focusing of your mind; a temporary lowering of your blood pressure and somewhat of a short detachment from reality while you are engaged in the process. That’s why this style of deep breathing is often used for meditation.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the well known Vietnamese Buddhist Monk writes extensively about the breathing patterns used in practicing Mindfulness and suggests that the box breathing format is one of the best, although he doesn’t call it that. He shortens the cycle a bit to three of four counts each and reminds his readers of, “the essential discipline of following one’s breath to nourish and maintain calm mindfulness, even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.” (The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh, p. viii.). He goes on to say that one should perform this form of breathing when one is stressed and the stress will disappear. Since stress is one of the major causes of physical problems for all adults, it would serve us well to follow his advice.
When you use this form of breathing several times a day, you should reap the benefits for the rest of the day. It is always well to remember that a calming technique is always available to us and that it is up to us to use it to lessen the effects of the stress of day to day living. I use it a lot — in traffic. It works for me.
Thank you for reading.