wellness — By avi greenberg
Breathing is the most basic and fundamental movement in our lives. It’s a constant from our first to our last day. On average humans breathe 20,000 times per day, and the way in which we do so dictates how we function and how we adapt to stress.
As a breathing and stress management coach, I spend most of my time helping train people to breathe optimally and thus reduce daily stress and improve quality of life. I’m certified in the Wim Hof Method and teach workshops in and around NYC, having led over 500 people in breathing sessions and ice baths in the past 12 months.
I have found that conscious breathing, directing awareness towards how you breathe and improving respiration can lead to greater overall health and performance. The top benefits of regular practice are life-changing (I can attest and offer my story as proof). Here’s a list of the top 5 benefits of incorporating breathing into your daily life.
Improvement in Cognitive Function and Sustained Attention — A study from Harvard took a group over the course of 8 weeks and had them complete on average a rate of 4 breaths per minute. This group showed improved retention and sustained attention — this was through diaphragmatic breathing.
Lowers Cortisol Levels — Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, most people have their highest cortisol level in the morning. Sustained heightened levels of cortisol (stress) can affect your health and immune system — meaning if you are stressed for long periods of time without relaxing you will compromise your immune system. Slow breathing is essential for this and utilizing the diaphragm. A daily morning breath practice will help lower cortisol, recommended practice is 6 breathes per minute — 5 second inhale and a 5 second exhale both nasal.
Relaxation Breathing Improves Glycemic Response — this can be achieved with a constant level of inhale and progressively longer exhales. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system likely improves insulin sensitivity (that’s why it’s called rest and digest). Great to practice this after eating especially for diabetics.
Controlling the Nervous System — Breathing is our mechanism to slow our nervous system or speed it up, think of your breath as if it’s the gas pedal or break for stress. It’s the mind/body connection, how and where you breath holds the key to amplifying and controlling stress. Our breath is the way we can shift from sympathetic (fight/flight) to parasympathetic (rest/digest) and vice versa.
Improve Athletic Performance — Your ability to breathe and the strength of that mechanism is key to endurance and ability to work more efficiently for longer periods of time. Building a higher tolerance for CO2 will determine how long you can move with proper form and high cognitive function. You can train this part by building up your diaphragm and working out by only using your nose to breathe. Breathing muscles are similar to any other muscle in your body; they can be trained and will contribute directly to your endurance.