"Only those who know how to breathe will survive."
What if I told you that you have the power to heat your body to withstand temperatures of negative degrees Fahrenheit by simply using breathing techniques?
Within the last decade, one individual has broken numerous world records involving:
Through these breathing exercises, he is able to turn his own thermostat up as well as produce ample benefits including reduced stress levels, more energy and improved immune response to swiftly deal with pathogens.
Now he is training groups of people all over the world through heightening oxygen levels. Oxygen is, by far, the most vital component humans need to live. We can go weeks without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without air.
Although, I have not personally trained with the Hof Method, I can attest to many of the incredible benefits of deep breathing that help to destress, relax, prevent altitude sickness, and help the body’s systems to perform better. In the following 5-minute video, I lead you through a breathing exercise to help warm you up and feel energized.
It’s shocking how little of our lung capacity is used on a regular basis. Although the regular human lung capacity is about 6 liters of air, we typically inhale much less. This can be defined as shallow breathing, or chest breathing. Shallow breathing is a self-expressive term, and may be caused by poor posture, stiff muscles, or inactivity. However, when shallow breathing is the only type of breathing you do, you’re using a small fraction of your lung capacity and doing your lungs a disservice. Shallow breathing lets stagnant air and pollutants gather in the depths of the lungs and may lead to fatigue, respiratory sluggishness, and diminished tissue function.
Lately, with the busy holiday season, I’ve found myself in moments with a heightened heart rate and shallow breath. As soon as I become aware that stress has kicked in, I immediately pause from the chatter of my mind and take 10 slow deep breaths.
These breaths can help clear out toxins that may have built up in the lungs, improving lung performance. Deep breathing gets more nourishing oxygen into your body that will help you feel better, and give you more energy.
In yoga philosophy, breathing techniques are called Pranayama as prana means the life force than runs within us all. Pranayama is the 4th Limb or Petal of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra philosophy path and means the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Practicing these techniques is considered to be one of the highest forms of purification and self-discipline for the mind and the body. According to William J.D. Doran, “As the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing the patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration."
I have been especially focusing on my breath as I’m training for a trek of a lifetime, Everest Base Camp. Altitude Sickness is a serious threat and the best way for me to prevent it, is to keep control over my breathing which leads to a stronger immune system.
To help prevent altitude sickness while hiking through the mountains I constantly redirect my focus to deep inhales and pursed lip exhales. I use this technique when the incline gets really intense and its harder to breath out through my nose. The deep inhales quickly bring needed oxygen to my blood stream while the pursed lip exhales calm my nervous system.
This exercise reduces the number of breaths you take and keeps your airways open longer. More air is able to flow in and out of your lungs so you can be more physically active. To practice it, simply breathe in through your nose and breathe out at least twice as long through your mouth, with pursed lips. This technique also calms our nervous system and cools our body.
The Everest Base Camp trek will be a spiritual experience of a lifetime. I can’t wait to share my stories and lessons with you, but I need your help.
Will you help me get there?
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I usually teach Diaphragm Breathing at the beginning of my yoga class as it is one of the most common techniques for deeper breathing.
Our Diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of our lungs. our abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give us more power to empty our lungs.
This technique helps strengthen the diaphragm muscle so people use less energy when breathing.
At first, you'll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic.
To begin, lie down, sit in a chair, or take an easy seated yogi pose.
If this is your first time or you have a lung condition, I recommend lying on your back with your knees bent, one hand on your upper chest and another resting on your abdomen to feel these areas expand and contract.
When inhaling deeply through the nose, first expand through your diaphragm (upper abdominal area) then through your lungs (chest). Even when you think you can’t inhale any more, try to squeeze a little more air in. Allow your lungs and stomach to fully inflate. This enables oxygen to reach the deepest depths of your lungs and break up any toxins and pollutants that may have accumulated.
Think of your breath as an elevator, filling up with people (oxygen) at each stop up to your head, pausing at the top, and gently traveling back down, deflating the lungs and finally the abdomen empties completely as you pause for a second at the bottom.
When you think you can’t exhale any more, keep blowing from the deepest depths of your lungs and stomach!
You can start with 3 seconds of inhale and exhale, and try to gradually build up to 8 seconds or more for each inhale and each exhale. Don’t forget to pause at the top and bottom for one second.
This exercise should be practiced 10 times in a row, and at least 5 times daily.
You can practice diaphragm breathing here on my third video.
In Kundalini yoga, our green 4th chakra energy center is related to air. The green color reminds us of green trees that breathe out oxygen for us to breathe in.
As you perform this exercise, imagine that your throat and lungs are illuminated by emerald green light, the color of the heart chakra, and as you exhale imagine stagnate energy in the body and lungs leaving the body as black, grey or brown light. Each inhale draws in vibrant green light, each exhale cleanses the body and the lungs.
Which breathing technique do you practice throughout your day?
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Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad