One of the most common things I’m seeing in almost every patient right now is shallow breathing.
And, wearing a mask everywhere isn’t helping.
Take a moment right now and notice your own breathing. Are you breathing deep down into the bottom of your lungs?
Before you read on, I want you to take three deep breaths in and out. Stop right now and do it.
Breathe deeply (your lungs go all the way down into the bottom of your rib cage).
See and feel your rib cage moving up and down.
Did you do it?
Now, notice how you feel now as opposed to before you took the breaths. Better, right?
Perhaps your breathing is a little slower, maybe your shoulders relaxed a bit, maybe you don’t feel so stressed?
Deep breathing is free and easy and the benefits are many. It also only takes a couple of minutes to make a big difference.
One of my favorite breathing techniques is 4:7:8 Breathing.
I learned this technique from Dr. Andrew Weil many years ago when I was working night shift. I would do this breathing technique any time I needed to sleep. It gave my body the cue that it was time to sleep no matter what time of day or night it was.
And, 4:7:8 Breathing isn’t just for sleep. It can be done any time during the day for a refresher, especially with all the sitting most of us are doing. Getting oxygen deep into your lungs helps to bring more oxygen to your entire system and keeps the bottom lobes of your lungs healthy. When the bottom lobes aren’t getting enough oxygen, you might feel short of breath or anxious.
Here’s how to do it:
~Place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth on that place that separates the teeth from the roof of your mouth (even if you forget this step, you’ll still get benefits).
~Breathe in as you slowly count to 4.
~Hold that breath for a slow count of 7.
~Exhale all the air with a little force for a count of 8.
Repeat this cycle 4 times.
Try it now and see how you feel after you do it. It seems to take people from the fight-or-flight mode into the rest and digest mode quickly and easily (learn more about this here).
I recommend doing this at least a couple of times a day if you sit a lot and during stressful times. It’s also very helpful to do before bed if you struggle with sleep issues.
An Integrative approach to healthcare always includes practical tools like this breathing technique. Instead of always going right for a medication, we look for underlying causes. Lack of proper breathing is a very common cause of anxiety and stress, and even gastrointestinal issues.
If you’d like to experience an Integrative Medicine appointment first hand, I invite you to see me in my clinic. You can find more information here.
I’d love to hear how more deep breathing goes for you!