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30 Ways to Breathe Better

In this episode, know about 30 different breathing methods that can help with energy, sleep, physical performance, mental performance and more. Also get some fascinating information from the book Breathe by Belisa Vranich.

By
Ben Greenfield,
December 26, 2016
Episode #317

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It’s no secret I’m infatuated with the importance of breath. From my daily practice of starting each day with 5 minutes of deep breathing to the HEPA air filter and air purifiers and essential oil air diffusers I have installed my home and office to articles I’ve written about breathing such as How to Breathe The Right Way and How Should You Breathe During And After You Workout? you could say breathing is a physiological function I focus on just about all day long.

In my quest to always become a better breather, I recently read a breathtaking (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) book entitled Breathe by Dr. Belisa Vranich.  In the book, Dr. Vranich shows us how breathing the right way can help with stress, illness, and a whole host of issues. As one of the most comprehensive treatises I’ve ever read on breathing, the book contains information on why breathing is so crucial, how to do know if you’re doing it wrong, how to know if you’re doing it right and, of course, plenty of quick and dirty tips on a host of different breathing techniques—all of which you’re about to discover in this episode on 30 ways to breathe better. (Stay tuned at the end of the episode for a bonus exercise from Breathe, which you can only find in the audiobook!).

Let’s delve right into each of these breathing tactics, shall we?

30 Ways To Breathe Better

4-7-8 breathing: An example of a counting breath or breathing isometric, in this technique one inhales quietly through the nose and exhales audibly through the mouth. The tip of your tongue is placed against the ridge of tissue just behind the upper front teeth through the entire exercise. The inhale is completed through the nose for 4 counts, breath is held for 7 counts, and the exhale is completed through your mouth, making a wooshing sound for 8 counts. The cycle is repeated 3 more times.

Belly breathing: Also known as “abdominal breathing” is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the upper chest. While the belly breathing taught in this book is exaggerated and important for dismantling bad breathing habits, there being a slight expansion of the middle is important in that it means the diaphragm is moving to expand the middle, where the best part of the lungs are pushing abdominal organs down (which helps with digestion) to create more room in the ribcage for the lungs to expand to their capacity.

Breath walk: Combines distinct patterns of breathing—ratios, intervals, and breath types—that are synchronized with walking steps and meditative attention. Directed breathing and focused attention can be utilized for personal growth, pain control, and relaxation, and are used by many forms of martial arts and athletics.

Buddhist breathing:  Buddha quite openly and continually advocated Breath Meditation or Anapanasati, an awareness of the inhaling and exhaling breaths.  It starts with an awareness of the ordinary physical breath, which, when cultivated correctly, leads one into higher awareness.

Buteyko breathing: Based on the assumption that numerous medical conditions, especially asthma, are caused by hyperventilation, this breathing technique (breathing slowly through the nose) was developed in the 1950’s by Konstantin Buteyko, a Ukrainian doctor. It purports to break the vicious cycle of rapid, gasping breaths, airway constriction, and wheezing.

Circular breathing: Produces a continuous tone, often used by players of wind instruments. By breathing in through the nose while simultaneously pushing air out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks, an uninterrupted tone is achieved.  It is used extensively in playing many instruments; e.g., the Australian didgeridoo, the Sardinian launeddas, and the Egyptian arghul.  A few jazz and classical wind and brass players also utilize some form of circular breathing.  Essentially, circular breathing bridges the gap between exhalations. The air stored in the person’s cheeks is used as an extra air reserve to play with while they sneak in a breath through their nose. Bounce breathing is an advanced form of circular breathing.

Clavicle breathing (aka shallow breathing): Clavicle breathing draws air into the chest area by raising the shoulders and collarbone (clavicles). Oxygen reaches only the top third of the lungs; this is the most superficial mode of shallow breathing. 

Coherent breathing: Involves breathing at the normal rate of five breaths per minute with an equal inhalation and exhalation.  This method claims to facilitate circulation and autonomic nervous system balance by creating a wave in the circulatory system, the “valsalva wave” (a term coined by Stephen Elliott).

Costal breathing (aka lateral breathing): A technique in which inspiration and expiration are produced chiefly by horizontal and lateral movements of the ribs.

Counting breath (breathing isometrics): With the body relaxed, a breathing pattern is maintained.  Depth and rhythm may vary.  Inhales should last several seconds; exhales are long and slow through your teeth, or with pursed lips, whichever feels more comfortable.  When in an isometric exercise position, a regular count should be established, because holding the breath during an exercise is not a good idea – and may even be dangerous.

Diaphragmatic breathing: A type of breathing exercise that promotes more effective aeration of the lungs, consisting of moving the diaphragm downward during inhalation and upwards during exhalation.

Holotropic breathing: Developed by Stanislav Grof as an approach to self-exploration, and healing that integrates insights from Eastern spiritual practices as well as modern consciousness research in transpersonal phycology.  The method comprises five components; group process, intensified breathing, evocative music, focused bodywork, and expressive drawing.

Lateral breathing: Focuses on filling your sides and back. The exhale brings the entire middle into the center.  It’s sometimes used interchangeably with costal breathing, which is used to deepen the voice and to treat stammering; however, in costal breathing the focus is on the ribcage all the way around the body.

Lung capacity:  There are two different measures of lung capacity/ lung breathing capacity: tidal volume, which is the measure of the amount of air that flows in and out of your lungs during normal breathing and tidal breathing is the breathing you do without thinking. And, vital lung capacity, the equivalent of taking a deep breath before going under water or exhaling fully after surfacing.  In a clinical setting, doctors measure vital lung capacity with a device called a “spirometer”.

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