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Why you should learn to breathe (better)

If you are reading this then you must be breathing right now.  However, what most people are unaware is that just like when you walk or run, there is a technique that can offer you more benefits when done correctly. More, when you learn the proper techniques for breathing you are rewarded with almost unbelievable results.  Learning to breathe properly has been linked to a variety of benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving mental clarity and focus, and promoting overall physical wellness.

These results come about because your breathing is directly connected to your nervous system. Although most of the time you are probably unaware that you are breathing, this process actually regulates aspects of your nervous system which are connected with your ability to manage stress, to your immune system, to your ability to focus and be productive as well as having the energy to power the biological processes in your body. 

What if you are not breathing properly? Well, the results feel like when you place your phone on “battery saving mode”: fatigue, low energy, decreased mental clarity, potentially increasing stress and generating anxiety, decreased endurance and even poor sleep!

What is more, because you breathe every day, all day, the benefits of learning how to breathe properly and training this process are amplified and felt in every breath you take (kudos for those who are old enough to notice my musical reference here!). A person who has good technique and who trains their breathing is able to increase the amount of oxygen in their bodies and feel the benefits even when they are at work, in their sports and activities as well just sitting down watching a movie or even sleeping. 

So let us dive into this most exciting and important topic and take the most important first steps to improve the way you breathe. 

How can you breathe “wrong”?

From a survival perspective there is no wrong way to breathe. As long as your organism is exchanging gases and air is passing through your airways, you will survive. However, if we want more than just surviving this is where the technique comes in. It is a shame that almost no one learns about this when they are kids and they can then have a lifetime of training and enjoying the benefits of great breathing. 

In order to get a better understanding of this, let us observe and contrast a less optimal breathing with a more optimised breather. 

A less optimal breather tends to have shallow, quick breaths. This means that the everyday breathing — say when you are just sitting at work writing emails or any other document — happens 20 to 40 times a minute and it uses less than 15% of the capacity of your lungs. If we take the number in the middle, 30 breathes in a minute, this means that from the moment you start inhaling to the moment you start inhaling again, 2 seconds have elapsed! It took you one second to inhale and 1 second to exhale. 

So what does a more optimal breathing look like? i just stopped writing and I counted my breathing. It took me 5 seconds to inhale, I held the air in my lungs just over 2 seconds, I exhaled in another 5 seconds and I stayed without air for just over 5 seconds. In total, it took me roughly 15 seconds to take 1 breath. In other words, I am taking about 4 breathes in a minute. Contrast that with 30!  Not only my breathing was slower, but I also take deeper breaths than I used to before I started training how to breathe better, therefore, I use more than 15% of the capacity of my lungs. 

What do I need to do to breathe better?

Before we get into the technique itself let me share with you a little bit about how I came to discover I was breathing poorly. In 2000 I started to practice the DeRose Method. I was working a corporate job, most days I was working double digit hours and I was finding that the demands on me were intense. A friend of mine recommended that I try the DeRose Method. Very quickly I could feel the effects of the Techniques and Concepts of this method and their impact on my performance, well being, levels of energy and productivity. I never looked back. I became a teacher in 2008, in 2010 I helped to open a school in London, in 2013 I started a school in New York City and in 2020 I moved to the Netherlands to start a school in Amsterdam. 

The DeRose Method is a unique approach to mindfulness, well-being, meditation and performance. It offers practical exercises to help you better manage your emotions, increase your focus and reduce stress. It is composed of Techniques and Concepts that together teach you to get the most out of your life. Breathing techniques are an important part of the DeRose Method. We teach over 65 different breathing techniques which help our students to manage their stress and emotions, to improve their productivity and concentration, and to have an overall better quality of life.

The best way for you to learn how to improve your breathing is by trying it for yourself. The text below describes the steps you need to take to start optimising your breathing. Enjoy it!

Train your breathing

In order to improve the quality of your breathing the first aspect we need to ensure is that we are having the best supply. Always inhale and exhale using the nostrils. The nostrils are uniquely equipped to filter and to manage the temperature of the air, improving the quality of the air that reaches your lungs. 

For all our techniques, unless specifically instructed otherwise, breathe through your nostrils in the most silent and subtle way possible. Aim to always take deep breaths.

Next we need to draw your attention to the different phases of your breathing. While this may seem obvious at first most people are rarely aware of the phases of their breathing or skip some of the phases all together in their day to day. 

There are 4 phases to each breath. Inhaling, holding the air in the lungs, exhaling and keeping the lungs empty. Each of these four phases are important. Note and be aware of these phases on your own breathing throughout your training in our app and in your life.

In fact, let us take a moment now to become aware of your own breathing. 

If you are standing, I recommend that you sit so you can be more comfortable and give your full attention to this exercise. If you would like to avoid further distractions you may even close your eyes — whilst this is not necessary, some people may find that closing their eyes can improve their concentration on this exercise. 

Begin by emptying your lungs. Exhale as much as you can and stay a brief second with your lungs empty. Then being to inhale slowly. Remember to breathe exclusively through your nostrils. Feel the pleasure of taking a slow deep breath. You don’t need to push yourself, when you feel that your lungs have plenty of air hold. Retain the air in your lungs for a few moments. And then exhale, through your nostrils, slowly. When you finish exhaling remain with your lungs empty for another quick moment. And then start this process once again. 

Observe yourself. Notice how you feel. Notice if your mind seems clearer and more focused.

Breathing is very powerful. In this app we are going to learn to master the power of your breathing so that you can increase your levels of energy and even manage your stress. 

Conclude this quick exercise and remember each of these four phases in your breathing throughout our training.