The power of breathing

Humans can live without food for three weeks. We can go without water for about three days. But without any air, we’ll die after just three minutes.

Breathing is an essential part of being alive and yet is often overlooked when it comes to assessing our health. While the process happens automatically, we can also control our breathing through a number of exercises to maximise our well-being. As it turns out, conscious, intentional breathing has a positive effect on our physical and mental well-being. Physiology researchers have found that mindful breathing can lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and boost metabolism, while psychologists have found that breathing exercises can combat anxiety and depression.

We can essentially hack our breath control to boost our health and harness our productivity. In his 2018 TED Talk, Lucas Rockwood breaks down three different breathing techniques – water breathing, whisky breathing and coffee breathing. Water breathing involves simply inhaling for four counts and then exhaling for four. This is about half the normal breathing rate. Water breathing has a balancing effect on the nervous system and can be used at any stage throughout the day.

With whiskey breathing, you inhale for four counts and then extend the outbreath for eight. This technique slows the heart rate, causes your blood pressure to drop and induces the relaxation response, which makes it easier to fall asleep.

The final type – coffee breathing – can be used, as its name suggests to make you feel alert. You simply push your breath out through your nose sharply and in quick succession. This energizes the body and can be practiced in the morning, before a workout or an important task at work.

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