Four Steps to Better Breathing and Health
Each of us has a vast, unchangeable past. Things we cannot change include our genetic, experiential, generational and cultural histories. We are the sum of each and every physical and mental condition we’ve been exposed to—every sensation, bite of food, and each thought and feeling we’ve had since we entered the world. And every breath we’ve taken.
Accepting the past that got us to where we are is not resignation. In fact, it’s the opposite of fatalism. A clear view of now is solid ground for us to stand on, take stock, and set off in the direction we want to go. At any time, we can (and, I’d suggest, should) stop and take note before mindfully setting off again.
Working gently with the breath yields safe, subtle, profound change.
Leverage for Change: Breathwork
If you are reading this, you have the power to use your breathing to improve your condition. Observing the breath as it is will allow you to move into healthier breathing, consider what you want, and try a few steps in that direction, maybe continuing on a lifelong journey.
Our experience and training in the Buteyko Method and other evidence-based practices allow us to offer you the following layer cake or, perhaps more accurately, breath cycle.
- Observe the breath. Without judgment, note whether breathing is through the nose or mouth, its volume, rate, silence or audibility, steadiness or variability, location—the diaphragm or elsewhere?—and whether it satisfies or seems insufficient.
- Quiet the breath. Familiarity with the breath as it is tells us how we might adjust it toward healthier breathing patterns.
- Reduce the breathing volume. Far from breathing too little, most people breathe in excess of metabolic needs. Gasping and sighing are not signs of vitality. Being able to move as you wish without getting winded is. Breathing less air softly into the diaphragm improves respiratory efficiency and stress resilience.
- Introduce respiratory improvement practices. That may sound like a fitness regime, and it is. The truth is, even sitting on the couch, we can build aerobic capacity by practicing steps one through three, then thoughtfully, incrementally adding cardiovascular challenges that are safe for your needs and goals.
Each step above grows out of the steps before it. We add steps three and four only when we are grounded in steps one and two. Repeating steps one through three is always beneficial. Step one, all by itself, is a calming, balancing lifelong practice.
How Long Does It Take?
You can work with us as often as it makes sense for you. Spending therapeutic time together can be calming and healing on its own. Our gentle guidance supports changes in your habits and routines, giving you tools to take into the rest of your life.
Changing the breath is profound. There is nothing more basic, no habit we do more times a day, than breathing. It means integrating change into your life, throughout every day and night. It also means setting aside time for formal breathing exercises. Habit formation takes forty to seventy days of regular practice. By then, your nervous system will have new, better habits that are a natural part of your life.
If you are alive and interested in greater comfort and vitality, the perfect moment to begin is now.