Take a breath.
Did you notice anything?
How about now? Notice anything?
Probably not. Your body’s been breathing your whole life without you having to do anything so why would it be any different right now. It’s not like you’re running now, right? Or doing any other physically challenging activity that’s altered your breath rate. I assume you’re sitting down, scrolling through this on your phone or leaning over your computer, because let’s be honest, no one reads when they are running!
Humor me; Sit up, lean back a little and notice your breath. What’s it doing? What does it feel like? Are you breathing deep into your body or shallow and up in your chest? Does it feel like work? Do you have to do anything, or is it just happening?
Your breathing is magical! It’s literally the only thing keeping you alive. I mean, sure, there are other systems that work to keep your body breathing, but they also rely on the oxygen to keep themselves running. Believe it or not, oxygen is the major fuel source for your body. It is, like food & water, a nutrient for your body.
So, what if I told you that you weren’t breathing right? What if I told you that the way you are breathing is telling your body it’s under stress & you’re not safe? Or that the way you’re breathing is causing that stiff neck you’ve been feeling? What if I even told you that breathing is responsible for removing 70% of the toxins from your body, would you take notice then?
Well, herein lies the magic! Breathing is one part of your body’s autonomic nervous system (the system that controls all the things you don’t have to be consciously aware of for survival) that you can actually have some control over.
If you think back to the last time you were scared or frightened, you might notice that your breath rate probably increased. This was in response to the stimulus of you being scared. Your body started getting ready to “fight or flight” and in doing so, increased your breath rate to try and get more oxygen (fuel) to your muscles (engines). The same kind of thing happens during increased physical intensity, from walking upstairs or a hill to a high intensity gym session or sports match.
The thing is though, during these “stressful” moments, your body doesn’t breathe “properly”. It’s not “thinking” properly. It’s thinking; oh shit, I’m in danger, get me outta here! So, it uses secondary muscles to help expand your ribs in an attempt to get more oxygen in immediately, so that your muscles (engines) can continue to fire (by burning fuel).
Your body does all of this without you even realising – magic (+ science).
The same thing happens even if you aren’t consciously aware of it.
you’re sitting at your desk for an undisclosed period of time. You’re focused on your work, you’re consciously fixated on the task at hand and that’s all that matters right now. You let your body focus on the survival basics; It pumps blood around your body, it sends sugars to your brain so you can continue to focus, it regulates your body temperature, replaces blood cells & damaged tissue, breaks it all down and builds it up again all in the time of a single breath. You’re still focused on your work. You haven’t noticed your posture. You haven’t noticed what muscles your body is using to breathe. You don’t even know what part of your lungs are being filled! You just need to get that the task at hand done!
Well, your body is feeling pressured. You’re not aware of it, because you’re so focused, but your body is aware of it.
In this moment, your body is doing everything it can to get some oxygen in your body. With that, other hormones are being created that are causing a catabolic (break down) effect in your tissues just so your body’s basic life support system can function… So you can get that report done.
This cascade, along with your sedentary state for the period, has caused a buildup of natural, yet unnecessary hormones & toxins in your body. I say “natural” because this is a normal response that our bodies have evolved over millennia & I say “unnecessary” because you’re not actually moving anywhere! This is a stress response.
So, let’s reverse this, shall we?
Stand up. Place one hand on your belly, at your navel. The other on your chest. Now, take a breath.
Did you notice anything?
Which hand moved?
Close your eyes and do it again.
How about now? Which hand did you notice move?
If it wasn’t the hand at your navel moving first, keep doing this exercise until it is.
Breathing into your belly will let your body know that it’s not in danger. That it’s safe. That you’re not under stress. It will help with digestion & contort your viscera (internal organs) so that they may pump more fresh fluids in & stale fluids out. It will start an anabolic (build up) process throughout your entire body, repairing damaged cells and tissues so that you can come back stronger tomorrow.
Focusing on your breathing regularly during the day is a simple technique to refocus, repair and renew the mind & body. Here’s a couple of great apps that can help you bring this into your daily routine.
1) Calm app
2) Insight Timer