Wellness – Breathing / Wellness
June 29, 2021
Bryan Mirabella, a human performance specialist joined us for a conversation about how breathing low, slow and deep can transform your life, from your emotional state to your physical health. He provided guidance on how to breathe to extend lifespan and shared the biology underpinning his methods. He then led us through breathing exercises which addressed the three dimensions of breathing. Bryan explained how breathing with low, slow, and deep breaths can help us to start over our lives, improving our very physiology, biology, and psychology, leading to a calmer and healthier self.
How to Breathe
Simply put: breathe through your nose and with your diaphragm, slowly.
To delve into greater detail: your nose is an organ, and if it is constricted, you’ll have trouble breathing and start breathing harder. When you do this, you breathe from your upper chest which is a shallow, rapid breath, which leads to a constriction around the pulmonary arteries of the lungs and arteries of the heart.
Pressure receptors in our carotid artery sense this pressure and send messages to feel agitated to the midbrain. From a simple fast breath, our brain perceives that the body is agitated, so it sends blood to the adrenal glands, rather than the viscera (internal organs). Blood then travels to the extremities, leaving the head. You could be sitting at work all day, but still be in flight or fight mode because your brain evolved to perceive danger; it doesn’t know if the source of this danger is a predator or an impending deadline.
Your takeaway – it all starts with the speed of the breath.
How Breathing Correctly Increases Lifespan
Relieving stress depends on the commanding of your breath.
Consider the eight limbs of yoga. For the first four limbs, there isn’t any movement involved. It’s all about the subtleness of the breath.
Stress, trauma, and chemicals ingested from the environment all lead to faster breathing. If we’re breathing faster, our heart rate variability goes down because of the pressure the body feels. Heart rate variability is intimately connected to longevity, as when it decreases, we tend to have health issues later on in life which decreases lifespan. Breathing correctly increases heart rate variability, potentially extending your lifespan.
Why You Should Breathe Low, Slow, and Deep
It is essential to learn to breathe low, slow and deep. A deep breath means filling your diaphragm: breathe from your front to your back, side to side, and vertically. Try and take a three dimensional breath – low, slow and deep – to hold onto carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide tells hemoglobin to liberate oxygen. If you feel you need more oxygen, it’s actually because you have low carbon dioxide. There isn’t enough carbon dioxide present to liberate the oxygen from the hemoglobin, so you feel like you need to take a bigger breath.
The sacs in your lungs that capture the oxygen, alveoli, are mostly concentrated in your upper lungs. If you slow down your breath, nitric oxide will take the blood from the lower lobes and flush it to the upper lobes, so you can get oxygen from the atmosphere by getting blood to the whole surface of the lung, and it all starts with a low, slow and deep breath.
The Two Pillars of Breathing
- Every day breathing mechanics. (Low, slow and deep)
- Powerful breath holds.
Three Dimensions of Breathing
Bryan led us through breathing exercises which address these three dimensions of breathing.
Biochemical: Sit as straight as you can. Hips shouldn’t be lower than your knees. Try to keep your spine tall. Relaxed belly. Close your eyes. Gain an awareness of your breathing. Breathe in a slow and gentle manner, but do not consciously interfere with your breathing. Allow it to be effortless. Observe your breath as it enters and leaves your nose. Concentrate on your airflow. If the mind wanders a lot, this exercise will help improve your concentration. It’s normal for the mind to wander, and as soon as you notice the mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breathing. This method normalizes your blood chemistry.
Biomechanical: Take your hands and place them on your diaphragm. As you inhale through your nose, feel the hands move away from the center. As you exhale, feel your hands return to the center. Breathe in a full, but slow breath. You should not be able to hear or feel your breath. All you feel is your hands moving apart on the inhalation and then moving back to the center on the exhalation.
Psychophysiological: Breathe in for four seconds and out for six seconds. Keep your hands on your lower ribs. You can utilize this technique in your everyday life, as it affects us psychologically, creating a sense of calm. This method is also called cadence breathing or coherent paced breathing.
Bryan can be reached at [email protected] and 646-872-2312, and more information can be found on his website.