By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine
The first thing we do in life: Breathe. The last thing we'll do: Breathe. So, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that during the moments in between -- when we're walking the dog, jamming on a work deadline or sacked out watching "Mad Men" -- we pay such little attention to this reflexive action.
"The main thing to remember is that your breath is the common denominator in everything you do," says Al Lee, co-author of Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time. "It has the ability to heal our mind, body and emotions and impact physical and athletic performance. We tend to think of food as what gives us energy, but food only provides about 10 percent of that energy. The other 90 percent comes from breath."
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Here's how to make your breaths count:
"Most of us, as adults, have adopted the habit of short, shallow breathing," says Lee. "We suck in our stomach and are hunched over our computer or steering wheel. This literally changes the chemistry of your blood, making it more acidic." In studies, this stress response has been linked to high blood pressure, a weaker immune system and emotional issues.
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While there are hundreds of breathing techniques, Lee says this one five-minute breathing exercise will give you 90 percent of the benefits you need:
Do it: Inhale through the nose for three solid seconds, imagining the breath traveling all the way down to your seat and filling your belly. Then exhale through your mouth or nose, pushing slightly with your abdominal muscles, for another 3 seconds. Aim to do this exercise once a day for 5 minutes. The goal is to feel good, not lightheaded (quit if you experience the latter).
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Doing this activates the nervous system, according to Lee, helping to regenerate and restore your body.
"Your blood pressure comes down, your immune system becomes stronger and more effective and more energy is being sent to all of the cells in your body. Studies show we normally breathe 15 to 20 times a minute. When you get down to 10 breaths a minute -- six seconds per breath -- that's when the emotional and physiological benefits kick in."
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Lee also suggests using the breathing technique anytime you feel stressed or anticipate stress -- before a commute, after work in the car before you walk into the house, after an argument with your Sig O, etc.
Do you pay attention to your breath?
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Photo Credit: WWD