Breathe: Your turnkey to optimal health

It sounds simple, but so many of us forget to breath when we’re stressed, busy or overwhelmed. And it’s hurting our health – both physically and mentally.

I’m serious. I recognize that breathing isn’t hardcore like CrossFit or a killer workout like HIIT, but you can reap just as many benefits from slow, deep breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing or meditation) as you do from those intense workouts. For those of you doubting me, I know you’re on Instagram, and you’ve seen those yogis in Bali, Hawaii and Cali. They are fit as hell and most of them aren’t deadlifting to burnout. What they are doing is breathing in a way that taps into their parasympathetic nervous system – often referred to as the “rest and digest” response.  

Not to geek out too hard, but the act of regular, deep breathing manages your cortisol levels – a major factor for stress, belly fat and mental clarity. Most of us have really high cortisol levels because we’re always stressed. This is a problem because heighten levels of cortisol turn on our sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response) and, when on, this system impedes our ability to digest and metabolize food properly.

The good news is, we can reverse the fight or flight response effects by tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system moves our body into an optimal state by enabling us to digest, assimilate and metabolize the food in our body, which allows you to burn more fat throughout your day. And, as you probably guessed, the best way to move us into this state is with our breath. And if that’s not a good enough reason to think about taking long, deep breaths, this act also:

  •  Improves cellular function by eliminating free radicals in the body
  • Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Improves mental clarity and sleep quality
  • Reduces stress levels and slows the process of aging

So, yea, breathing is great. But even with all these known benefits, it still seems hard to find time to sit down and breath. That’s why I am challenging you to find five minutes to breath every day this week *. You can find time – and you have to find time – if you’re serious about getting healthy. I know you probably don’t believe me yet (unless you practice meditation already), but breathing will change your health game.

Give it a go for five days. See how it goes and tell me about your experience. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens.

*If you’re not sure how to breathe/meditate, try this:  Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair with your feet on the ground and roll your shoulders back. Set a timer for five minutes. Place one hand on your stomach and one on your heart and then close your eyes. Breath in, pushing your hands up and away from the body. And then breathe out, hands collapsing back into the stomach. Focus on the in and out breath when your mind starts to wander. Repeat for five minutes.