Yoga breathing balances your parasympathetic nervous system. This is your “rest and digest” system. It’s what makes you relax and recuperate. These days, we’re so over-stimulated, we’re always in a state of “fight or flight” (your sympathetic nervous system). Too much stimulation leads to an over dominance of sympathetic tone.
Breathing can change that.
Recently, I read a comparison between beginning yoga students and expert students. The expert yoga students had up to five times less inflammation than the beginners.(1)1
Inflammation is triggered when the lining of your blood vessels is irritated or injured. It’s a major cause of chronic disease. You get inflammation from day-to-day stress. You also get it from a typical American diet. Junk food, fast food, processed food, and non-organic, hormone-injected, commercially farmed food stress you out from the inside.
My yoga experience taught me you don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel. And that you can gain the benefits of yoga breathing even while doing pushups, jumping jacks, and any form of intense exertion.
When you control your breathing, it builds your lungs. When you exhale, it calms your mind and helps stress go away.
I designed my fitness program to do the same.
PACE concentrates on how to control your breath. It intensifies your lung power while it gets you in shape. When you’re conscious of your breathing, it relieves stress just like yoga does. You get the same inflammation-fighting power.
It’s a little-known fact that your lungs determine whether you live or die. Doctors involved in the Framingham Heart Study discovered that lung health predicts how long a person will live – even before they develop a serious disease.(2,3)
While you’re doing any high-intensity exercise or activity, take control of your breath. When you inhale, do it fully. Fill your lungs. Then exhale fully. Then, as your breath gets faster and shallower, focus your awareness on it. Feel it bringing vital life to your body. Feel your lungs become stronger.
Once you stop your activity, you may even break into a pant. Be aware of it. Allow it to happen. Then at the first possible moment, control your breathing and bring it back to deep breaths, in and out. Fill your lungs fully, and empty them until there’s no more air.
This is the same technique as yoga.
But you don’t need to exercise in order to benefit. Here’s a breathing exercise you can do right now, wherever you are.
- Step 1: Begin by exhaling completely. Force out every drop.
- Step 2: Inhale deeply for at least a slow count of 4. Fill your lungs until you can’t inhale any more.
- Step 3: Hold your breath for at least a slow count of 7. Anticipating the exhalation like this creates a calming and rebalancing effect.
- Step 4: Now exhale for at least a slow count of 8. Empty your lungs fully, then force out any remaining air. This is the part we usually forget, but it’s the most crucial. As you exhale, you will feel yourself relax.
Do this 5 to 10 times, and you’ll be amazed how it drops your pulse rate, lowers your blood pressure, and calms your mind.
1. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. , Christian, L. , Preston H., et al. “Stress, Inflammation, and Yoga Practice” Psychosom Med 2010, doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377 Published online before print January 11, 2010
2. Miller, JA.”Making Old Age Measure Up.” Aging. Vol. 2, Art. 12. Boca Raton, FL.: Social Issues Resource Series, Inc., 1981
3. Shunemann, H., Dorn, J., et al. “Pulmonary Function Is a Long-term Predictor of Mortality in the General Population” Chest. 2000.;118(3);656-664.
Dr. Al Sears is fast becoming the nation's leading authority on longevity and heart health. His cutting edge breakthroughs and commanding knowledge of alternative medicine have been transforming the lives of his patients for over 15 years.
Dr. Sears currently owns and operates a successful integrative medicine and anti-aging clinic in Wellington, Florida with over 15,000 patients. Over the course of his career, he has developed his own approach to heart health, longevity and anti-aging medicine - combining the best of modern medical science with natural holistic techniques and treatments.