Four Surprising Breathing Exercises to Increase Wellness

breathing

Breath is life, yet how many of us take this for granted? If this is you, you might want to give it a bit more of your attention. Why? Because babies are born knowing how to breathe properly. They are deep belly breathers. By the time we are twelve years old, most of us are breathing high into our chest. Our lungs are filled with stagnant air that never gets evacuated, and our breath is very shallow.

The body detoxifies a lot of waste through the lungs. If you are not breathing deeply, you are setting the stage for premature aging and disease. Having some sort of daily breath practice is an important part of self care.

There are many breathing exercises. Here are just a few.


Alternate nostril breathing comes from yoga. It’s highly credited for helping with anxiety and headaches.

Turtle breathing is a qigong (Chinese) practice. Many qigong practices developed from watching animals. As turtles have long lives, this form of breathing is done to promote health and longevity.

Coherent breathing is good for the mind and body. It doesn’t take a long time to feel the effect. More is more. Regular practice helps you to reach a new level of calm.

This shamanic breathing exercise is to promote altered states. Why would you want that? Sometimes the key to healing lies within the soul. You probably can’t reach it by talking. Medication can’t touch it. When you get into an altered state, your typical guards are down. You can gain insight and understanding that allow things to release spontaneously. Or perhaps hidden information is revealed so that you now have more resources. This can make other therapies suddenly more effective.

A word of warning about engaging in altered states work. The information that comes through can be intense. If you are in a fragile mental state, you probably don’t want to do this unassisted. Support can mean the difference in the experience being an empowering one or a terrifying one. I wouldn’t experiment with this unless and until you’ve been through a few altered states experiences with a helper first.

Taking fie to twenty minutes out of your day to breathe consciously and mindfully can go a long way in improving health and vitality. Try it for a week. See what a difference it can make for you. It costs nothing but a little time. What have you got to lose?

Five Easy Qigong Exercises to Improve Health

qigong

All my clients know that I love qigong. It’s easy to learn some movements that anyone can do right now. The benefits show up pretty quickly. You don’t need fancy equipment or a  lot of space to get started. Movements can be adapted to any fitness level. Qigong benefits the mind, body, and spirit. You can do it in the privacy of your own home at most times of day. What could be easier?

Here are some basic practices.

This one is “Cloud Hands.” If you notice variations from other Cloud Hands videos online or from what I have shown you, know that this is common. Learn one technique and stick to that. Don’t blend.

“Stands like a Tree” looks deceptively simple. Don’t ignore this one because it appears boring or too easy. You may notice that you tremble at first. You may notice how out of balance that you are. As you practice, your strength, awareness of energy, overall health, and sense of calm will increase. If you do only one qigong practice, I highly recommend this one!

This movement loosens the spine and shoulders, increases blood and Qi flow in the body. It can enhance focus. It creates a habit of moving rotationally from the waist, which is highly beneficial to your lumber spine, kidney health, and overall energy. By turning with the waist you are giving your abdominal organs and bowels a good massage. Be sure to keep your knees and hips forward when turning and move only from the waist, not pelvis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz8ZE2kidBk

Most qigong practices incorporate movement and breath. This one is a quickie that can be done anytime you feel anxious or stressed. It only takes a few minutes to learn and execute. The benefits are fairly immediate so you will want to do it regularly. More is more.

Here is another one that gives you a lot of bang for the short amount of time invested in learning and performing it. If you are new to qigong, it may appear really silly. Try it! It certainly won’t work if you don’t do it.

This one works by cleansing the five major organs:  heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney. Every organ also has an associated sound. When you create each organ’s sound, stale, congested qi is expelled from the affected organ and is replaced with fresh, clear qi. When the energy is clear flowing and clean, the mind, body, and spirit is healthier.

I’d love to hear about your experience. Let me know how it goes!

Breathing is Not The Same As Breathwork

breathe

Many people feel that they don’t need to learn how to breathe because we are all born doing it. It comes naturally, right? In order to understand the benefits of breath, it’s important to know that while we ARE all born breathing naturally and efficiently, this ability declines with age. By the time children reach age ten, most are no longer breathing in a healthy way. As they age, the breath continues to decline. This is a significant because healthy lung function is correlated with improved stamina and overall health.

In order to understand healthy breathing, it’s good to know that breathing is not the same as breathwork. Breathing can be separated into three categories: breathing, therapeutic breathing, and breathwork.

Breathing is what we all do automatically. There is no thought behind it. It just happens mechanically. The technique could be healthy and efficient, but for most of us it is not. So how do we go from being efficient breathing babies to shallow, high, inefficient breathing mouth breathers? When humans are under stress, the breath gets shorter, shallower, and moves high into the chest so that the body can mobilize to fight, flee, or freeze. Adrenaline flows into the system for a burst of energy. Blood moves away from the digestive system and into the extremities so that the body can take care of the threat.

In other words, it’s a protective mechanism. (Those who study breath consider anything over 15 breaths per minute to be a stress signal. The average adult is at or above this level). When the danger is over, breathing becomes more relaxed and moves back into the belly.

This happens in a split second. It doesn’t matter if the “threat” is a robber, something scary you saw on a movie, or a loud noise. Unfortunately, the world is full of things that the nervous system sees as a threat because it wasn’t designed for modern living. Electric lights extend the work and play day. Violence streams from the television. Coffee, energy drinks, and cigarettes override the body’s signals to sleep.

Add to that the noise level in a typical city on any given day. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, regular exposure to 85 dBA (adjusted decibels) overtime will cause hearing loss. So many aspects of daily life push the upper limits of that, such as an alarm clock, doorbell, blender, and freeway traffic. Other facets of every day life regularly go far above like car horns, concerts, rocking out in your car, a baby crying, jet noise, and a motorcycle driving by. Our nervous systems are under constant assault! Is it any wonder we’re all holding our breath?

To override this, some people engage in therapeutic breathing. This refers to utilizing deliberate breathing patterns in order to positively impact the nervous system, induce relaxation, create altered states, or manifest some other positive outcome. These technique can include things like holding the breath, counting the breath, alternating speed or length of the inhale or exhale, or alternate nostril breathing. Or it may just include instructions on how to breathe more efficiently to overcome the restricted, inefficient patterns that have been acquired through stress. Once learned, therapeutic breathing becomes a self-help tool.

Breathwork is also therapeutic; however, it generally requires a lot of training to learn it. It is generally facilitated because the breather can have altered states experience, release intense emotions, or recall lost memories. This can put him or her into a vulnerable state which requires some guidance and care. Because it opens up stuck emotions and energy, it can require some assistance to down regulate the system. For this reason it’s also not advised to do breathwork as self-help.

Therapeutic breath and breathwork are fabulous tools that anyone can use for health and healing. They are all natural. There are no negative side – effects. The change is often quick. Sometimes it is the only intervention you need. Other times it can enhance other therapies so that they are more effective. Your body needs air anyway? Why not learn how to breathe mindfully and in a healthy way again?