25 Nov How to Breathe Smart
Take a deep breath.
Do it now.
All day we breathe without much conscious because it’s an involuntary action.
But what we don’t do enough is TRULY DEEP BREATHING.
Because of our hectic and stressful lifestyle, the majority of us are always doing shallow breathing.
Let’s change that, shall we?
But first, a bit of geeky science.
Part of the nervous system, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is divided into TWO branches –
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)
SNS is the ‘fight or flight’ in response to danger (imagine a bear or boss chasing after you), helping us to ensure survival.
Whereas PNS is the ‘rest and digest’ mode for healthy maintenance and digestion. Think of your spa experience. Aaaahhh…
Source from Vinik AI, Erbas T, Casellini CM. Diabetic cardiac autonomic neuropathy, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 2013;4(1):4-18.
Think about your daily routine – SNS or PNS?
You wake up to a blaring alarm clock for the second time. S***, I’m late for work! (Stress! SNS)
You reach the office and your boss demands for the report in an hour’s time (Stress! SNS)
You start criticizing yourself and start doing up a list of to-do work (Stress! SNS)
You pick your kids up after work, they start quarreling and you get mad (Stress! SNS)
Daily stressors like these trigger our body to release large amounts of stress hormones like cortisol.
Stress related weight gain- sounds familiar?
When stress is up, cortisol is up, blood sugar level goes up, insulin goes up and did you know insulin is the fat storage hormone?
And this happens day in and day out, every month, every year.
Not to mention our addiction to the daily morning caffeine that contributes to the adrenaline rush in our body, further activating our sympathetic nervous system.
We’re always on a Go, Go, Go in this fast-paced environment, hardly giving our rest and digest system to work, perhaps only during meal times.
Even so, our eating times are occupied with work.
I’m guilty of dining ‘al-desko’ style.
Have you ever done this before?
So much so that our mouths may be doing its job of swallowing food but our minds are not present with it, thinking and worrying about the future.
Guilty as charged.
Let me get this straight – fight or flight response is not a bad thing.
We need it for survival and protection.
The challenge for many of us today is that we’re in a chronic state of fight or flight response (ie sympathetic nervous system)
So what do you need to do to down regulate?
Remember what I asked you to do at the start of this article?
That’s the FASTEST way to activate your ‘rest & digest system’.
Breathing in deeply for 4 counts and lengthen your breath out for 6 counts.
Repeat until you feel a sense of calmness, usually by the 8th round.
Are you in the zen mode now?
I bet you are!
Your challenge now is to make this a fun bedtime practice every week for the next 2 weeks.
Go to yoga class and you’ll step out being more mindful about breathing.