There is one single most wonderful remedy, a thing that can in a matter of minutes change the Ph of your blood, enhance digestion, lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as clear you of the stress hormone cortisol. It can ground you, cause shifts in consciousness, it can heal, repair and protect and it’s as simple as inhaling and exhaling. All other systems in your body depend on this exchange, your peace of mind, mood and circadian rhythms are tied to it, how and what you feel, how energized or stressed and depleted you are – it can all be handled by knowing how to breathe. Breath is life, yet we are rarely taught this skill until we get to adulthood, have a couple of panic attacks, hyperventilation episodes or any other simply life induced thing that leaves us lost, depressed, anxious, restless or lacking. Life will do that and things may seem to be out of control from time to time but you can reorient yourself and take a breather (pun intended).
We all (think we) know how to breathe and do so by inertia led by the brain area designated to these things you don’t have to think about- the autonomic nervous system. We do know how to breathe to survive, but mostly don’t know how to breathe to live well. There is a big difference and you can breathe yourself to better if you know what you’re doing. So what do water, whiskey and coffee have to do with breathing? They are different types of breath serving different purposes.
Water breathing is to be used any time you wish as you would drink a glass of water. It’s a steady rhythmic grounding flow of breath where you inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 4. This will get you down to about half of your usual breathing rate, which is mostly shallow “get out of the way, I got shit to do and things to worry about” breathing. Water breathing is grounding and balancing. If you’re too hyper it calms you down, if you’re a bit catatonic it brings you on line. You may think you’re good at this, but you’re not. It’s a practice and it takes conscious effort.
Whiskey breathing describes itself as well. A little bit here and there is good for you and may help you relax fall asleep, but use it to much you risk problems. Whiskey breathing is implemented when you’re too unfocused and stretched too thin to relax, when your mind is racing and you’ve wondered of from clarity. Use whiskey breathing to lower your heart rate and make yourself sleepy. It is best used when you’re ready to go to bed and need to unwind and slow down. It’s done like this – inhale to the count of 4 and double the exhale to the count of 8. After 10 rounds your heart rate and blood pressure are lower and the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, encouraging rest, peace, calm. Insomnia or extended periods of restless poor quality sleep are a dangerous game to play with your body.
Coffee breathing is a bit different. Inhale the way it’s natural to you and focus on the exhale which should be in little powerful bursts, almost the force of sneezing. You push 20 of these exhales with your lower abdomen, while the chest, shoulders and face remain motionless. This one is to be used in moderation just as any stimulus as coffee would be. It’s good here and there when you really need it but if you abuse it you’ll get jittery and that wired but tired feeling. This way of breathing quickly transfers you to the fight or flight by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and gets you energized, ready to focus, move and handle things. The optimal time of day to use this is when you need to take off the cobwebs from sleeping, so just as you wake up, when you’re preparing to do some intense workout or when you feel your energy plummeting in the afternoon and you want to grab a carby snack.
You can breathe yourself healthy and use the mechanism keeping you alive to enhance life quality Most of the things we need to be balanced and content we already have. Resources are here. Our job is to learn how to use them. Through structured education we get a lot of technical facts about the operations of this body we’ve been issued to use and experience the world through, but we never got the user manual. So start with the basics. As Terri Guillemets said, the wisest one word sentence ever spoken is – Breathe. Get wise, get breathing.