A friend once told me she couldn’t make it out to dinner because she was staying home to work on her breath. And not in the, “I’m on that 24-hour Altoid diet,” kind of way. But in the, “I’m gonna be mindful and really focus on my inhales and exhales,” kind of way. Give. Me. A. Break.
When she told me she’d rather practice her breathing than dine with the crew, it hit me right in the gut and damn near took my breath away.
Work on your breath? Surely you jest? We have reservations at Flowers of Vietnam, for Christ’s sake.
But what I’ve learned since that phone call, is dinners come and go (even if it means missing out on the best papaya salad known to mankind), but having strong breath sticks with you for a lifetime (and can even help expand your lifetime, for real).
How to Breath Like A Badass
It’s widely believed Harry Houdini, the magician, could hold his breath for 3-whole minutes without passing out and hitting his head on a coffee table and effectively ruining his sixth grade birthday party. No, this never happened to me (nervous laughter). And that was during a time where everyone exercised by smoking 15-packs of cigarettes a day and washed their deep-fried steak sandwiches down with whiskey. But you don’t have to be a chain-smoking, steak-eating, whiskey-swilling magician to improve your lung capacity and your breath. All you have to do is:
1. Find a Quiet Place To Practice Your Breathing — Set the mood. Light a candle. Close the curtains. Get in the zone and find your focus. It helps if you take your phone, your tablet, your smart TV, and all those non-stop thoughts on whether or not the leggings you bought at Lole are cute or not, and leave them outside of your quiet place. You don’t need these things creeping in when you’re trying to get your breathe on.
2. Be Mindful Of Your Breathing— You just set aside all your drama and distractions, so come to the state of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a nice state with nice people who are chill, tranquil and breathe with purpose and meaning. They place a premium on full inhales and exhales. There is a rhythm and a reason behind this breathing technique. You’re aware of your breath. You know it’s there and you can feel the movements, like your chest raising and lowering. Once that’s established you can continue to inhale and exhale deeply for several minutes, counting to seven (insert animal of your choice, I personally choose a goat or whale) each time. After your seventh goat go ahead and concentrate on your breathing without counting. Let your mind take a break from distractions (like fantasizing about cursing your friend out for telling you about the benefits of breathing sooner).
Once you set aside the necessary time, sit in the right place and really focus, you can maximize your breath, putting all those old school magicians to shame.
The Benefits of Mindful Breath
Alleviates pain — When I hone in on my breathing I notice that all those little aches and pains just kind of go away.
Lowers stress — There’s a reason we take a giant deep breath when we’re stressed at work. Now add more deep, mindful breaths to the mix and you got yourself using your lungs like a giant oxygen-filled stress accordions.
Gets that good blood flowing to your organs — When you breath deep, like super deep, that oxygen is traveling throughout the body, waking up all the different organs and showing them love. It’s like when you write an old friend a note. It ends up perking up both of your days.
Helps with digestion — That increase in blood flow from breathing is doing a big solid for the GI system. You’re relaxed, destressed and that spicy meal from your favorite Vietnamese spot isn’t giving you any problems — all because of your breath
Increases energy levels and stamina — Having control of your breath is perfect when it comes to tough interval training dished up by the crew at Center Stage. So you can say, “Sam, this hyper-cardio exercise isn’t slowing me down, fam. I’m in control of my breath and I’m gonna totally cush this class.” wink
Improves your mood — Having breath, and more importantly, having control of your breath really puts things in perspective. You’re cognisant of being alive, and that’s pretty cool. But in addition, when the blood flows, endorphins release and you find yourself comfy, content and straight chillin. There are few better feelings than that and it’s all because of breath.
The fine reporters at the New York Times can actually backup all the crazy breathing stuff I just wrote. So check that out to to heighten your breathing game.