Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

The power of your breath

You can survive for a month or so without food, a week without water but only up to five minutes, if you’re lucky, without breathing.

Breathing is very important for us, vital in fact, but do you ever think about the way you breath and what it can do to your body?

Breathing happens naturally and we take it for granted.


We don’t and can’t pay attention to every breath, but there may be times during your day when you can stop to notice and even change the way you breathe. In turn this can help improve your mood and health.

First let’s look at how to breathe and how it can control our nervous system and overworked mind to a state of clam.

Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth
There are different opinions on this but the main theory behind relaxed breathing is either inhaling and exhaling through the nose or inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. I personally find it easier and more relaxing doing the latter.
There are many benefits to nose breathing, which is no surprise that’s what the nose is designed for. Also when we breathe in through the mouth it sets off our sympathetic nerve and fight or flight response.

Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nerve
The sympathetic nervous system commands your fight or flight response.

When it fires, your heart rate and breathing speed up and stress hormones like cortisol start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat.
If the threat is ‘A lion is chasing me and I need to run away,’ this response is helpful. But if the threat is ‘I’m late to work!’ or ‘the kids are driving me crazy’ this response is not particularly helpful.

The parasympathetic system, on the other hand, controls your rest, relax, and digest response.
When the parasympathetic system is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers, and your body is guided back into a state of calm and healing.

A better way of dealing with running a few minutes late or losing control and shouting at the kids.


Putting your body in a parasympathetic state is easier than you might think; it’s just controlling your breathing.

One method you can try is the 2-1-4-1 breath
• To begin, sit still and tall somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes and being breathing through your nose.
• Inhale for a count of two. Pause at for a count of one.
• Exhale gently, for a count of four. Pause at the bottom of your exhale for a count of one.
• Keep your breathing even and smooth. If the two-four count feels too short, try increasing the breath lengths to four in and six out, six in and eight out, and so on
• Set a timer and breathe this way for at least five minutes to see a difference in your mood.
• I recommend that you try this at set times during the day and not when you feel you need to.
Training the body to deal with stress by placing it in the rest and digest state more often will help you deal with stressful situations be better.

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