How to Breathe

This article originally appeared in the October issue of the Rittenhouse Sq Revue.  To read the magazine in its entirety, click For more stress management tips and a free 1-hour health consultation, .

Hiking Camelback Mountain in Arizona. Even if you're not surrounded by beautiful mountains, a breath of fresh air can do a lot of good!

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.”  – Swedish Proverb

When was the last time you took a breathing break?

We take lunch breaks, smoking breaks…bathroom breaks.  But have you ever just excused yourself from your meeting or engagement and stepped outside to take a quick breath of fresh air?

“Our lives are incredibly stressful and demanding,” said Dr. Michael Baime, Director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness at the University of Pennsylvania.  “Our system is built to protect us from danger, but is not meant to help us multitask and keep so many balls in the air at one time.”

According to Dr. Baime, when we are faced with more than we can comfortably handle we begin to contract, and our ability to breathe – emotionally, spiritually and physically – is greatly inhibited.

“This contraction holds us down, and makes it harder for us to open our hearts, and to feel beauty, sympathy, caring and love.”

Instead, we just feel anxious.

You know that feeling.  You have four tasks at hand, and all you can think about is how much else you have to do.  We are so busy working, talking, eating, drinking and emailing – and all at once – that it can be very difficult to take a minute to slow down.

Our inability to take a step back and manage our stress has become so pervasive that it has contributed to the larger health issues we are experiencing in the U.S. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, world-renowned Harvard medical doctor and integrative nutritionist, we have a health crisis in the U.S. that, unless we drastically change our ways, will lead to “certain collapse of our economy and our health system.”  Eating whole foods, focusing on prevention of disease and recognizing the importance of physical activity are among the ways Dr. Weil believes we can reverse the negative health trends in the U.S.

But in all of his years of medicine, do you know what he considers to be the “single most effective medical intervention” we have available to us today?  That’s right – breathing.

”Breath is key to healthy living.  It’s the connection between our conscious and our unconscious mind, and is the master of our central nervous system,” Dr. Weil said.

Dr. Weil recommends practicing this simple breathing technique once in the morning when you wake up and once in the evening before you go to sleep:

Breathe in for 4 counts through your nose.  Hold for 7 counts.  Exhale for 8 counts through your mouth.  Repeat four times.

This simple exercise can help you find calm in even the most chaotic moments.  But in order to create a true change in your life, “the most important thing to do is to pick something that works for you – whether it is playing piano, playing with your grandchildren, or looking at the sky,” Dr. Dame said.

“People have been practicing mindfulness techniques for thousands of years, and they are proven to work.  Just be patient with yourself, and when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, let it sit with you for a moment.  Cultivate a little bit of acceptance, and then let go of it.  If you make mindfulness a choice, you will appreciate living more fully and will experience more sanity amidst all of the craziness.”

So what are you waiting for?  Take a deep, long breath of this fresh, fall air and give yourself a chance to find calm.  You deserve it.

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3 Responses to How to Breathe

  1. SUCH a wonderful post! Breathing is something I really struggle with it and it’s become so apparent to me what a huge difference correct breathing makes in our health. You can do so many good things for yourself, but if you’re breathing poorly it takes such a toll!

  2. JP

    I read Mindfulness in Plain English by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana. It taught me some GREAT techniques, much like the ones Dr. Weil recomends. It’s a deeper dive, but it’s still for beginners and really great.

  3. Pingback: 5 Steps to Ending Emotional Eating « Full Plate Health

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