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The Long Game - Issue #189

Taylor Somerville
The Long Game - Issue #189
By Taylor Somerville • Issue #189 • View online
This week, I’d like to expand on one of the tools I discussed last week that I use with my clients and myself to improve stress management, performance and overall health and resilience, a breath practice. A common misconception about the benefits of breathwork is that it’s a significant daily time commitment. However, to reap the benefits of a breath practice it can be incorporated throughout your day.
Three simple steps to kick start your breath practice are:
1.    Breathe through your nose
2.    Breathe lower
3.    Breathe slower 
By incorporating these simple steps, you will notice a change in your mindset and a sense of calm as you move through your day. 
1. Breathe through your nose
Your nose is made for breathing. It warms and filters the air while allowing the proper ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen to enter and exit your airways. When you breathe through your nose, the increased resistance will allow the offload of more oxygen into your tissues based on the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. This is called the Bohr Effect. Nasal breathing releases nitric oxide, which has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Nitric Oxide opens up your airways and blood vessels allowing for more oxygen to get to your brain and working muscles. Nasal breathing helps keep the nervous system in the parasympathetic state, the rest and relaxation state we should be in the majority of the time. It also works to activate the diaphragm.
2. Breathe lower
If you find yourself breathing into your upper chest, you are putting your body into a more chronically stressed state. This leads to the constant release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. There are a growing number of studies that suggest chronic diseases (i.e. cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome) along with poor health choices such as overeating and drug and alcohol abuse, are caused by chronic stress. When you breathe lower, you engage the main breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Similar to other muscles in our bodies, the diaphragm needs to be worked. Diaphragmatic breathing allows more oxygen to reach the lower lobes of the lungs where there is a larger surface area and greater blood flow. Properly using the diaphragm is important for core stability and posture. 
To breathe with your diaphragm, start by inhaling through the nose, deep into your belly. Expand your ribs horizontally instead of moving your shoulders vertically. Then, exhale through your nose, contracting your belly to the spine. Breathing in this manner puts your nervous system in the parasympathetic state discussed above. Combined with slower breathing, this practice will lower your heart rate, improve cognitive function, and increase creativity.
3. Breathe slower
Over breathing is when your breathing exceeds the metabolic demands of your body or, to put it simply - breathing more than your body needs or requires. This will cause you to blow off too much carbon dioxide resulting in inefficient use of oxygen you are breathing in, leaving you in a suboptimal state. As a result, a host of issues may occur such as: anxiety, high blood pressure, brain fog, headaches, and even heartburn. As your breathing slows, you will set off physiological changes that take you out of the chronically stressed state and improve your relaxation response and cognitive function. 
Putting it all together
The first step in changing behavior is through awareness. As you go through your day, become aware of how you are breathing. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? Do you typically breathe into your upper-chest or into your belly and lower ribs? Are you breathing fast or slow? Breathing is something you must do every day and it is important to learn to do it properly. Proper breathing will improve many areas of your life such as: sleep, anxiety, asthma, allergies, and digestive issues. 
As you check into your breath during the day, remember to breathe through your nose, breathe lower, and breathe slower. Take five breaths in through the nose and out through the nose, breathing down into the belly and lower ribs at a rate of five seconds in and five seconds out. This will take you less than one minute but has the potential to dramatically change your day. As you begin to experience these benefits it could peak your curiosity and you want to learn more. We can not only use the breath to calm us down but we can also use it to ramp us up. As you explore these edges of the spectrum it might just open your eyes to a world of possibilities you never imagined.
Call to action
If you would like to learn more, join me for a virtual breath class to help you further experience the benefits of the breath. You can access our schedule here. We are currently holding a sale through the end of the month on all packages and individual classes. I also develop personal plans after assessing your breathing patterns, your stress levels, and goals. I am here to help you become a more resilient human in all aspects of life. These programs will improve your mindset, your performance, and give you tools to better handle the stresses of everyday life. Set-up a FREE 15-minute call today! Check out the website to find out more information.

If you really want to see how you can use your breath to control your stress response, step into a thirty-degree ice bath. There is something primal about exposure to the cold. When you first get into an ice bath, every ounce of your being is saying, “get the hell out!” It is the ultimate in the fight, flight or freeze responses. The cold teaches us that we can control our reactions through our breath. Ice baths also have immense physical benefits and scientists are now learning that cold exposure is a neuro-protectant that can help with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological diseases.
We all complain about not having enough time in the modern era with work, kids, and civic duties. We feel we don’t have any time to relax and decompress. However, in reality, we spend a lot of time checking notifications, texts, emails, etc., sucking up a majority of our leisure time, resulting in more stress. Check out the article to learn more.
Chronic mouth-breathing in children leads to issues that can last a lifetime. Children who sleep with their mouth open or snore can suffer from ADHDteeth & mouth problems, anxiety, and asthma as they age. If you’re interested in more detailed information, check out the book, “Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic”. I recommend that all parents check out this article!
Before I go, checkout a few more links I found this week.
I hope you enjoyed another edition of The Long Game, feel free to pass it along.
In Health,
Did you enjoy this issue?
Taylor Somerville

The Long Game is a newsletter for people that want to grow and challenge themselves. It is about the drive to better ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually while having the curiosity to enjoy the journey. I will include articles, podcast, videos, and blogs on a variety of topics ranging from psychology, fitness, meditation, and nutrition. I am a certified XPT Coach, I hold the Art of Breath certification, I am a CrossFit Level 1 trainer and hold the Aerobic Capacity certficate. Checkout my website to learn more about the services I offer.

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