Jennifer Jenkins

Breathing should be as natural as…living. Right?  After all, our breath is our life force.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give your breathing much thought. . . even though it’s something you do 22,000 times a day! But it’s worth paying attention to, if only for a few minutes every day. The way you breathe is linked with your health, your stress levels, your fitness, and your energy –and it can affect EVERY single cell in your body.

How is it that the very thing that defines life itself (our first moments of life outside the womb and our last few moments of life before the tomb) are something we need to practice?

Want an attitude adjustment or a mood changer, just breathe….

In 2003, the American singer/songwriter Michelle Branch recorded the popular song, BREATHE:

If I just breathe
Let it fill the space between
I’ll know everything is alright
Breathe, every little piece of me
You’ll see everything is alright

If I just breathe
If I just breathe

In the midst of a natural disaster or any traumatic experience, we are reminded of the many things that are utterly out of our control.  However, we are in control of our breath.  If you haven’t tried focused breathing exercises before, you will be amazed at how different you can feel in just a few minutes.

Earlier in my career, I was a Labor & Delivery Nurse and was present for hundreds if not thousands of births. Many expectant mothers become more aware of our breathing through Lamaze breathing– a breathing technique based on the idea that controlled breathing can enhance relaxation and decrease the perception of pain. 

As a Labor and Delivery nurse, we could literally predict who would have an easier birthing experience, based on their ability to perform relaxation breathing. Some of our patients actually put themselves into a more stressful condition by hyper-ventilating and holding their breath which in turn negatively impacted their baby.

How many of us are actually aware of our breathing? Do you breathe through your mouth or through your nose?  When my high school English teacher wanted us to stop talking, she would say, “Breathe through your noses!”  Little did we know that she was right about more things than Shakespeare and The Canterbury Tales.

What are the benefits of breathing through your nose?

Your nose releases nitric oxide when you breathe through it, which helps widen your blood vessels and improves oxygen circulation in your body.

Your nose warms and humidifies the air you breathe, which makes it easier for your lungs to do their job. Nasal hair filters out dust, allergens, pollen, and foreign particles so they don’t reach your lungs.

Drawbacks to breathing through your mouth? It can dry out your mouth, leading to bad breath as well as dental and jaw problems. It’s linked with asthma and snoring. You can experience allergic reactions from particles inhaled directly into your lungs. It’s also tied to sleep apnea: a dangerous condition in which you hold your breath while sleeping.

Case study: I had a client whose blood pressure went from normal to skyrocketing when she was under stress.  Many people believe that stress causes high blood pressure, but what if elevated blood pressure and heart rate is caused from our breathing (or lack thereof)?

After a battery of tests and visits to specialists ranging from endocrinologists to cardiologists to neurologists to urologists, our patient visited her primary care/nurse practitioner. The skilled ARNP watched her patient speak, as she recounted what the specialists had told her.  “Something in my body must be failing!”  NOTHING COULD HAVE BEEN FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. She was a healthy, fit 40-year-old.

As our patient spoke, her nurse practitioner watched as she talked and talked without taking a breath. “BREATHE,” said the ARNP.  “You haven’t taken a breath since you began talking,” she added. 

Did you know that many of us hold our breaths when we are under acute stress?  Once your body’s heart rate goes down during breath-holding, it tries to compensate by RAISING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE to get blood pumped to the body. This happens as our blood vessels constrict. 

The way you breathe can leave you feeling stressed and anxious. . . or relaxed and calmly energized. When you breathe deeply in a slow and steady pattern, it signals your parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body down.

If you had any training in public speaking, theater, or vocal music, you may have been told to, “Breathe from your diaphragm.” It helps you project your voice and is meant to help you use the diaphragm correctly while breathing. This breathing technique offers several benefits to your body including reducing your blood pressure and heart rate and improving relaxation. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9445-diaphragmatic-breathing

Are you a shallow breather?  Like holding your breath, shallow breathing can set you up for feeling stressed, anxious, and tired. Several factors can set us up for faster, less productive, shallow breaths: pain, poor posture, stress, anger, fear, and illness or disease. Breathe deeply and slowly, and feel the relief!

Who knows better about the importance of staying calm than the Navy SEALs? Did you know that they have perfected their own breathing techniques? To relieve stress, Navy SEALs use a technique known as box breathing. As members of the United States Special Forces, SEALs are frequently placed in high-stress situations. Box breathing is a valuable mindfulness technique that can aid in stress management and overall wellness. On the battlefield, mindful breathing can make the difference between life and death. 

Are you ready to take the first step to less stress and more life?  Schedule your complimentary discovery call HERE and then TAKE A DEEP BREATH; and receive our complimentary Mindful Breathing Guide to help get your started.