When Mr. Miyagi instructed Daniel San in the cult classic film Karate Kid, to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, he wasn’t just trying to protect his apprentice from the noxious effects of all those paint fumes. No, Mr. Miyagi knew that in order for Daniel to clear his mind and come into a balanced state for the sake of his Karate mastery, the young student had to find his center. Otherwise, he would get squished, “just like grape.”
The wisdom of ancient martial arts may seem mysterious, but the positive health effects of deliberate deep breathing are well known in modern medical science.
Blame it on stress
Throughout our hectic days, our mind and body absorb the stress we encounter in traffic, at work or even failing to finish that next level of Fortnite. The side effects of this built up stress and anxiety can play a detrimental role in our ability to relax, sleep soundly and achieve some well-deserved peace.
The good news is that deep breathing need not require a membership to that high-priced dojo or yoga facility. Many do-it-yourself, stay-at-home and while-you’re-in-bed options exist to experience the calming and restorative effects of deep breathing.
Below are a few of our favorites gleaned from thousands of years of human trial and error but ones that can be mastered in just a few moments. Just remember, as Mr. Miyagi whimsically waxed, in life, like in breathing itself, there is no try, only do!
This technique refers to the number of seconds a practitioner should inhale, hold, and exhale each breath in a concentrated effort to inflate the lungs with oxygen while allowing time for your body to absorb its life-giving energy. Done lying down, sitting or standing, the 4-7-8 technique will help you relax and rejuvenate, one deep breath and 19 seconds at a time.
Here are the steps:
- Begin with one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
- Inhale deeply and slowly from your abdomen, while counting to 4 as you breathe in
- Pause and hold the breath while counting from 1 to 7
- Exhale slowly while counting from 1 to 8. Be sure to rid all air from the lungs by the time you count to 8.
- Repeat steps 1 through 4 for 3 to 7 repetitions
- Be mindful of the calming effects of the mind and body quiet.
Roll breathing aims to assist in your effort to utilize your full air capacity as you inhale and exhale. It’s recommended to practice this first lying on your back with your knees bent until you get knack. From there it’s doable in any position.
Here are the steps:
- Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Focus on the movement your hands encounter as your chest and stomach rise and fall with each breath.
- Focus on inhaling deeply to fill your lower lungs so the belly rises while the chest does not. Like Miyagi teaches, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this for 8 to 10 repetitions.
- After 8 to 10 repetitions, move to phase 2 by inhaling first into your lower lungs before then inhaling into your upper chest.
- While exhaling slowly through your mouth, try to create a whooshing sound. The hand on your stomach will lower first followed by the hand on your chest. You should feel the tension escaping your body little by little with each repetition.
- Continue this for 3 to 5 minutes until you establish a rhythm that feels like the action of rolling waves as your mind and body become still.
After a lovely night of sleep, it’s best to kick-start your body with a boost of oxygen and a mindful meditative breathing exercise to open air passages and clear the morning fog.
Here are the steps:
- While standing, lean forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent. Allow your arms to hang down towards the floor.
- Inhale deliberately and deeply, while straightening your back in a gentle manner until you are erect.
- In this erect standing position, hold your breath for a few moments.
- Then exhale this breath deliberately and gently while leaning forward to the starting position.
- Repeat this procedure a few times until you feel relaxed, recharged and ready to take on your day.
Carving out a few minutes each day to practice any one of these deep breathing techniques will help you restore your energy, relax the body and mind, and provide a peace-inducing return to a centered and wholesome state. These techniques are tried and true and will have you crane kicking your way to positive productivity worthy of any master’s praise.