According to a new research by the New South Wales University in Australia, when weight is lost, the majority of it is breathed out as carbon dioxide. This is due to a simple physics fact – oxygen is a highly flammable substance that accelerates chemical reactions. In the body, it thins the blood a little which stimulates lower blood pressure and an increased blood circulation. This on the other hand speeds up your metabolism and burns more calories, which means the more oxygen you have in your blood the faster your metabolism will be. Plus, the more oxygen in your bloodstream, the more energy you will have, the clearer your head will feel, and the more calories you will burn.
Joanna Turner, a health coach from Sydney, shares her story of how she lost weight through correct breathing.
“It took me a while to hear the message about breathing that everyone kept talking about. I was ‘hearing’ the message but not actually doing it. After a stressful day at work (I was formerly a corporate accountant), I would literally say, ‘I haven’t even breathed today!‘
She is a firm believer that stress makes you fat. The right breathing – proper belly breaths – is a fast and efficient way to calm stress reducing the cortisol that amasses into your body and leads to unhealthy weight gain.
‘I have a new career as a health and life coach, and now actually teach my clients how to breathe. Breathing the right way has calmed me down and helped me lose weight.
So far I’ve lost 50 pounds and find myself spending less time doing excessive long-distance sports, like triathlons and half-marathons, and spend more time doing yoga, Pilates, weights and short HIIT-style (high intensity interval training) workouts for fast results. This change has given me better results, in much less time.”
Simple tweaks to breathing can immeasurably boost wellbeing, reduce stress and excess weight. Here’s how to improve your breathing for better physical and mental health.
Step 1: Breathe from your abdomen
Director of Laughlife Wellbeing Programs, Ros Ben-Moshe, claims that the only way to get the most out of each breath is to breathe from your belly.
“Optimal breathing stems from the abdomen, where a richer inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide occurs, slowing the heart rate and easing anxiety.” Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which induces calmness.
“Interestingly, we begin our lives breathing well, which can be seen watching babies breathing, as they take deep breaths in and out with their abdomen rising and falling, not their chest,” Ben-Moshe notes. This vital skill of breathing from our abdomen gets lost somewhere along the way leaving us dependent on shallow breathing instead.
Tip: Put your hand on your belly when breathing. You should be able to feel that when you breathe in, your abdomen protrudes, and when you breathe out, your abdomen is sucked back in.
Step 2: Breathe through your nostrils
Your nostrils heat up the air so that it travels ‘more easily’ through your body.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, leads to poor oxygen concentrations, which in turn causes high blood pressure, heart problems and other issues.
“If you are a mouth breather, the very best thing you can do for your health is to learn to breathe through your nose,” claims naturopath Mim Beim of Breathing Well. Thus, you will get fewer colds, improve your circulation and concentration.
Tip: Whenever you catch yourself breathing through your mouth, swap it to nose breathing, asap.
Step 3: Breathe deeply
It’s not just about breathing from low down in your abdomen, it’s also about breathing deeply. The key thing is to really breathe in, inhaling as much air as you can with your breath. You also need to let all that air out by exhaling deeply too.
As mentioned above, breathing deeply stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which naturally relaxes us. “In this state, endorphins (those feel-good hormones) are released, introducing feelings of happiness and wellbeing, and oxygen delivery improves, which is important to enhance mental stamina and clarity,” says Ben-Moshe. “With each deep, long breath, muscle stress and tension is released.”
Tip: You should concentrate on breathing all the way in, till you can’t take in any more air. Hold that air, and then release it, till you’re sure there’s nothing left.
Step 4: Practice
As breathing is done mechanically most of the time, it really takes a while getting used to deep breathing and, as with so many things, it requires practice.
So it’ll be misleading if you expect this kind of breathing to just become second nature. What you should do actually is take time each day to master your technique and get better at it. Remember the old saying, ‘practice makes perfect.’
Tip: Assign time every morning and every evening to practise this deep breathing technique. Even a few minutes can be quite beneficial.
What to remember
This practice of deep breathing should be done systematically and never on a full stomach. Deep breathing shows great results if practiced after a gentle form of exercises like tai chi, yoga or walking.
It is also important to incorporate them with balanced diet programs for weight loss. Apart from the health benefits, the second best thing about breathing deeply is it’s performed without any equipment and is accessible for anyone.