During my Martial Arts and SEAL training, I learned just how powerful mastery of the breath could be. The ability to control my breathing during intense moments proved invaluable later during the chaos of combat.
I believe that the breath control strategy I developed over the years had tangible effects in my life and aided my success as both a special operative and a business leader. It is now the first thing I teach to aspiring Navy SEAL candidates at SEALFIT.
How to Incorporate Breath Exercises Into Your Life
The next time you find yourself thinking negatively, stressed, angry or anxious, I want you to step back from the situation and pay careful attention to your breathing patterns. For the vast majority of people there is an inverse correlation between stress levels and breathing patterns, in that, the less control you have, the quicker and shallower your breathing will become.
Today, it’s likely that you use just a small portion of your potential lung capacity with each breath. The average adult takes fourteen to fifteen breaths per minute and utilizes only one-third of their lung capacity with each breath, which leads to increased blood pressure and carbon dioxide buildup. In comparison, myself and other soldiers, who have been trained in breathing control, take four to five breaths a minute.
Mastering breath control will not happen overnight. Training on improving your breathing should be done daily and it is best done by building it into your morning or nighttime routine to ensure it becomes a habit. This training should be done through practicing specific breathing exercises that focus on powerful and complete inhale and exhale cycles.
It is paramount to understand that breath function works within two levels of our bodies: strengthening our physical self and charging and balancing our energy force, both of these lead to better health. I’d like to discuss 7 tangible benefits you will see if you focus on breathing properly and incorporate breathing exercises into your day-to-day life.
When you undergo physical pain or stressful situations, your body instinctively reacts in accordance with its fight-or-flight mechanism and your adrenal glands release the stress hormone, Cortisol, which leads to increased heartbeat, muscles constriction, eye dilation, an increase in breath rate and a decrease in breath duration.
Medical professionals are unanimous in the assertion that elevated cortisol levels pose a serious threat to our health. Breathing exercises can help to reverse or mitigate the body’s natural reaction to stressful situations, markedly decreasing the rate at which cortisol is released into your system.
Nervous System and Heart Balance
The brain, spinal cord, and nerves receive increased oxygenation and are more nourished. This improves the health of the whole body, since the nervous system communicates to all parts of the body. Breathing exercises reduce the workload on the heart by making the lungs more efficient and by inputting greater pressure differentials and increasing circulation.
Deep and slow breaths increase the flow of oxygen traveling through your bloodstream. As a result, more oxygen molecules attach to hemoglobin in your red blood cells. This, in turn, aids your body in the metabolizing of nutrients and vitamins.
Usually, when people breathe they practice ‘quick breaths’ which only utilize less than 50% of their lung capacity. That is 50% of the life force that you have just left unused. By not fully exhaling or breathing in, there is toxic residue left in the lungs.
Over time, this toxicity will build up and deplete your energy. With this in mind, it makes sense that breathing accounts for an estimated 70% of the way the body releases toxins. Improper or ineffective breathing rids your body of less toxins and forces the various systems in your body to work on overdrive to compensate.
By focusing on improving our breathing, we can elevate our energy and physical body for optimal health. Breathing brings vital life force into our energy body, helping to fuel it which in turn helps maintain the health of our physical body, immune system and electrical system.
When you breathe properly, your muscles relax and much of the physical tension they hold is released. When tension is released, the blood vessels dilate and blood pressure is able to return to normal levels. The extra oxygen that pours into the cells increases the functionality of the body’s various systems. This leads to lower blood pressure.
Further, when you exhale air from your body, you release carbon dioxide that has been passed through from your bloodstream into your lungs. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste of your body’s metabolism.
Increased oxygen flow to the brain allows it to function at its optimal levels, which in turn aids decision making and ability to focus on tasks. Studies have shown that breathing exercises have beneficial impacts on the brain’s state of awareness – increasing retention and concentration.
Deep breathing triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain, simultaneously improving feelings of well-being while also providing pain-relief. A relaxed body and mind can help bring clarity and insights into your thinking and result in better decision-making.
A Healthy Pattern
Establishing healthy patterns and rhythms to our daily lives is important for creating a sense of balance and harmony. Oftentimes, healthy decisions lead to further healthy decisions. It takes repetition for habits to become ingrained and natural and healthy breathing serves as a time and reminder to focus on all of the beneficial habits you wish to form.
Life is messy and while we won’t ever be able to avoid stress, breathing properly helps us deal with it in a healthier and more productive way.
The benefits of breathing are hard to convey on paper. I ask you to challenge yourself and try breathing exercises every day for 30 days. I suggest starting with box breathing, you can find more information on this practice here. I guarantee that through this breathing practice it will change your life.