Its fascinating how much time and money we invest into various health hacks like diet and exercise. Yet, the most potent of them all gets largely ignored.
As over simplified as it sounds, that vital component that can bring much order to chaos is breath. Besides, its something that is freely available to you at any given time or season.
And no, not the deep breath we are conditioned to take when stressed. According to breath expert Patrick McKeown, how we breathe as children influences concentration, focus, sleep and ultimately how we look as adults!!
Notice how a lot of dumb looking people in movies are portrayed as mouth breathers? That is no coincidence. The way we breathe has deep reaching consequences. If you wake up with a dry mouth in the morning, chances are you are a mouth breather in your sleep. This means your body was working/breathing more than it should in a rested state and in addition to a dry mouth, you wake up tired. Sounds familiar? We know what chronic sleep deprivation does to us. If this begins in childhood, it is not likely that the brain, facial and oral features develop well.
Elite athletes have very handsome features with prominent cheek bones, a larger lower jaw and well developed airways. Oxygen is absolute gold in sports. No mouth breather will have the lung capacity to achieve what these athletes do. Its a game changer.
Statistics show that over 50% of children are mouth breathers. Often due to adenoids, asthma, allergies and the like. Patrick himself suffered from asthma until he discovered what a difference simple breathing can make.
In this brilliant TED talk, Patrick demonstrates how in just a few minutes you can change your body temperature using your breath. (Minute 9:30 onwards)
When we are stressed we breathe fast, take shallow, noisy breaths from the upper chest and through the mouth. In reality what we need to calm down is actually slower breathing, through the nose, from the diaphragm.
We might then remember to take a deep breath but in doing so we are not really slowing down our breathing. To counter anxiety, slow breathing is a great tool because it stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system that sends our body the message to rest and relax. With stress it is the sympathetic nerves that go into overdrive, sending the message of fight or flight.
The next time you are stressed, try this: breathe through your nose, take quiet breaths from your diaphragm. In other words, slow down.
The ancient yogis practicing the right form of Pranayama got it right when they said: breathe so quietly that not even the hairs in your nose move.
All animals breathe through their noses. Dogs do have their mouths open, but only on hot days, in order to regulate body temperature..
For more on the topic, here is a fabulous podacast interview of Patrick McKeown by Dr. Ranjan Chatterjee: How breathing through your nose will change your life.