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One Small Change

6 Lessons from a Month of Better Breathing

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So what have I learned after 31 days of trying to breathe my way to better health and performance? Here’s a synopsis:

1. People scoff.

When I’m standing over a putt or kneeling in the on-deck circle with eyes closed taking deep inhales and exhales, I’m routinely asked if I’m okay. People get worried. When I explain I’m just doing my breathing exercises, they invariably look puzzled and skeptical. After I struck out in a recent game, one wiseguy suggested that perhaps it’s time for me to “respire.”

2. Don’t forget low-tech.

For years I’ve been chasing better performance by buying increasingly high-tech (and expensive) gear. My bike, for instance, sports more bling than LL Cool J at the Grammys. This experiment and the one I did last month on proper hydration have taught me that simple (and free!) stuff like air and water can make a big difference. They just don’t have the marketing departments.

3. It takes practice.

I was so accustomed to breathing shallowly and automatically that it was challenging to take charge of my respiration and maintain a new pattern for even a few minutes. You have to really concentrate on it, which is one reason it’s so settling. In a way, you’re meditating.

4. It’s the gateway.

A yoga teacher once told me that control of the breath leads to control of the body, which eventually leads to control of the mind. This experiment helped me understand more fully what she meant. When I was regulating my breath, I could feel my heart rate slow and muscle tension depart, which, in turn, helped me relax and focus.

5. It works for some things better than others.

Of the breathing drills I tried this month (Sleep, Game-Day, Pressure, Performance and Healing), the most immediately impressive were those first three. Breathing can help you fall asleep faster at night, focus your mind for the athletic task at hand, and counter the effects of adrenaline in heart-pumping situations. Some “experts” also contend that certain types of breathing can even help you lose weight. But when I tried inhaling air whenever I got the urge to inhale ice cream, it provided only a momentary distraction. So this isn’t a miracle.

6. Ten or less is my new goal.

In general, the more slowly and deeply your breathe, the better it is for your health and well-being. Al Lee, the co-author of Perfect Breathing, says studies show that when you get down to about 10 full breaths per minute (most people take 15 to 20) you lower blood pressure, boost immunity, and ease stress. He recommends living by a six-second-breath pattern (inhale for 2, hold for 1, exhale for 2, hold for 1). This is the beat of a healthful, more relaxed life. Try it and see if it doesn’t feel right.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Stress, Pressure, Focus, Health