Practicing a regular, mindful breathing exercise can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.
– Andrew Weil, M.D., Integrative Medicine Physician & Author
Do you find yourself struggling to get through the day, or maybe experiencing the dreaded afternoon slump too often?
Next time you feel like going for an extra cup of coffee to increase energy, take a deep breath instead.
No – seriously…
It turns out that simple breathing exercises are one of the most natural energy boosts and ‘pick-me-ups’ there are…
No caffeine required, no jitteriness, and no subsequent crash…
How breathing impacts energy levels
If you’re not breathing optimally, you’re robbing yourself of energy.
The way you breath may be causing you to feel tired, fatigued, foggy, and uninspired.
This is because proper deep breathing helps balance the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood.
This is vital for high energy levels and mental alertness.
Since oxygen is the breath of life, it’s rocket fuel for the body and mind.
And if you’re chronically stressed out or aren’t properly managing your stress or overwhelm you could be more at risk here.
Being in constant fight-or-flight mode means stress hormones are continuously pumping through your body, which not only raises heart rate and blood pressure but also leads to shallow breathing.
Shallow breathing leads to an imbalance in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
This means you may not be getting enough oxygen circulating through your body.
There definitely seems to be a connection between breathing, oxygen levels, and physical energy levels.
A study by Vrije Universiteit in Belgium highlighted this connection by demonstrating that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients have an irregular breathing rhythm, which negatively affects their oxygen levels. (1)
The study found that CFS patients seemed to improve their condition by practicing simple breathing exercises. (2)
This is important because:
Most of your +30 trillion cells need oxygen in order to produce enough energy to help your body function at its best.
How Your Cells Create Energy
Virtually all of the oxygen we breathe is used to produce energy in our cells…
– Dave Asprey, author of ‘Head Strong”
Cells are literally little powerhouse engines responsible for producing a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Scientists call ATP as the ‘energy currency of life.’
Cells take energy from oxygen and nutrients in food (ie: sugar/glucose) and convert it into ATP via a process called cellular respiration. (3)
Improving oxygen intake by practicing breathing exercises helps maintain cells functioning in the best way possible.
This means you reap the benefits – you feel better, think better, and perform better when your cells are energized.
Believe it or not, our breathing can impact:
- focus levels
- mental clarity
- our ability to stay present and in the moment
- problem-solving skills
- immune system function
- ability to handle stress and overwhelm
2 Energizing Deep Breathing Exercises
Before jumping into the breathing exercise, here are some things to keep in mind:
With this exercise, we’re focusing on deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
This means we’re not using our chest or upper body to breathe, but instead we’re engaging our lower belly as we inhale and exhale.
On the inhale, your lower belly should rise outwardly.
On the exhalation, the lower belly moves inwardly, towards the spine.
Balancing Breath Technique Balancing Breath is an ultra-simple, evidence-based breathing technique that you can practice in just one minute.
It’s been shown that your body begins to respond to this technique in 60 seconds.
Though keep in mind that the longer you practice it, the more benefits you’ll gain from it.
Try making space in your daily life for this 1-minute breathing practice and start there.
This technique is based on breathing at a 10-second rhythm –> 5 seconds inhaling followed by 5 seconds exhaling.
Complete at minimum x6 rounds of 10-second rhythm cycles (Remember: each full cycle = 1 inhale + 1 exhale)
Step 1 – begin to focus on your breathing, connect with the inflow and outflow as it is naturally, right now
Step 2 – Intentionally slow your breath and deepen it slightly by belly breathing
Step 3 – Inhale for 5 counts
Step 4 – Exhale for 5 counts
Step 5 – Repeat Steps 3 and 4 a minimum 6 cycles, although 30 cycles is ideal and optimal. (6 cycles = 60 seconds, 30 cycles = 5 minutes )
Follow along with the emblem as you inhale and exhale.
Imagine your lungs expanding with air as you breath in for 5 and then contracting as you breathe out for 5:
Alternate nostril breathing (aka Nadi Shodhana) is a yogic breathing (pranayama) technique that’s meant to balance your nervous system and cleanse your body’s energy channels or nadis.
Yoga breathing literally means ‘regulation of vital energy via breath control’ in Sanskrit.
By clearing your channels of blockages you free up life force energy or prana in your body.
This energizing breath involves switching the breath between the left nostril and the right nostril.
It’s a bit more involved than the first exercise and takes a bit of getting used to but once you get the hang of it you’re good to go!
Try practicing exercise #1 first every day for 7 days and then move on to this one if you’re just starting out with breathwork.