It amazes me how quickly my mental state can change just by breathing a little differently.
(And when you try it out for yourself, you’ll know what I mean.)
I like to think of this tool as a Centering Breath, or a Grounding Breath. Because it helps re-center our mind and body when we’ve become overstimulated, enervated, or more generally stressed-out.
There’s three steps to it:
1 – Breathe in through your nose.
2 – Inhale deeply, down into your diaphragm. (As if you could breathe all the way to the base of your spine.)
3 – Extend your exhale slightly longer than your inhale.
Whenever I do this, I nearly instantly feel a greater sense of calm, centered presence.
There are a bunch of reasons why these three rules work.
And I’ll share those in a sec. But before I do, I want you to try this breath.
Just take 10-15 seconds and breathe in through your nose, while focusing on inhaling deeply down into your diaphragm, and extending the exhale out for longer than the inhale. (e.g. 6 counts inhaling, 8 counts exhaling.)
I’ll take a moment to do that too while I’m writing this.
How’d that feel?
Nourishing is the word that comes to mind for me.
Now, as I was saying, there are a number of reasons why breathing this way is the bees knees. I won’t bore you with all the nitty-gritty details. But I do wanna share a few key pieces of why this works. (Plus a few ways you might experiment with this Centering Breath tool throughout your day.)
First piece of the puzzle: breathing through your nose.The alternative here is to breathe through your mouth, which is what we don’t want to do. Mouth breathing encourages shallow breathing. (And it’s what we do when we’re in fight-or-flight mode.)
Again, I invite you to try it out for a second. Do a little compare-and-contrast.
- First, take a breath in through your mouth, and notice where the breath goes. Notice how your chest and belly move (or don’t.)
- Then, take a breath in through your nose, and notice the same.
When we breathe through our nose, we breathe deeper, more naturally. There’s more to it than that, but that’s one of the most important reasons.
Which leads us to the second piece of the puzzle: breathing deeply. Our lungs are MUCH bigger at the bottom than they are at the top. To use our lungs fully and properly, we need to use our diaphragm to pull breath all the way down to the bottom of our lungs. Breathing shallowly up in the top of the chest only uses a fraction of our lungs’ potential, and leads to a host of physiological imbalances.
And then the last piece: extending your exhale longer than the inhale. If you do nothing else while breathing, do this. Extending our exhales is one of the quickest ways to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our body that creates feelings of calm, relaxation, and peace. This is what we wanna activate to move from overly stressed-out to relaxed and engaged.
Ok, so that’s a little bit of the background on breathing. (If you want way more background, I’ll share how to get that in the P.S.)
The most important thing to know at this point is that breathing this way works.
And you’ll know that for yourself by practicing it in your life.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road.
I was reflecting on all the different times and places where I find benefit from using breathing better. I’ll share a few here with you as an invitation to experiment with the Centering Breath in your life.
- When you wake up first thing in the morning. Bring attention to the breath, and breathing fully. If you’re the type of person who wakes up with some morning anxiousness, or wakes up with a very active mind, you’ll wanna start this practice first thing upon waking. There’s a massive difference between starting a day feeling revved-up and anxious and starting it with calm confidence and energized tranquility.
- When you realize your posture is terrible. Working on computers can turn us into hunched-over gremlins. Hunching over constricts our lungs, and worsens our breathing patterns. Notice when your posture is terrible, and use it as a cue to lengthen your spine, broaden your back and chest, and breathe more deeply.
- When you’re actively feeling stressed and anxious. Anytime you notice the mind revving up too fast, use the Centering Breath–thru the nose, deeply, and exhaling longer–to re-ground.
- When you’re feeling impatient. This is actually the same as #3–impatience is a state of overstimulation–but it’s helpful to call it out as a unique moment. Re-grounding with your breathing helps metabolize that stimulation and ease you into the present moment.
- When you’re ending the work day. We tend to get pretty revved-up during the work day. This serves certain goals, but it almost never helps us relax, connect with loved-ones, and recover after our work day has finished. Creating space to breathe while in-transition from working mode to whatever you’re doing after work, is a big win. (Your car ride home from the office is a great time for this. Turn off the radio/podcasts/whatever and tune in to your body and your breathing. You might be amazed at how differently your evening goes.)
That’s enough examples for now. Because really, best time to breathe better is…all the time!
So let’s start today.
Join me for one last Centering Breath before we go?
1 – Inhaling through the nose
2 – Deeply down into the diaphragm, expanding the lungs fully
3 – Exhaling for longer than the inhale.
Awesome. Nice work.
Hugs + High-fives + Let’s make this an amazing week,
P.S. If you wanna go way deeper on breathing, we’ve got an amazing Master Class called Optimal Breathing 101 over at Optimize. You can check it out with a free 14-day trial of the Optimize membership.