Exhaustion Cause: Shallow Breathing
Breathing is our most elemental and immediate need. But there’s a big difference between breathing to survive and breathing to thrive. “Most people I meet take shallow, rapid breaths, using only about a third of their lung capacity,” says Weil. You need oxygen to metabolize your food so your body can produce energy. “Not breathing fully and efficiently has a huge effect on your vitality.”
Most of us don’t often stop to consider the way we breathe. “We don’t pay attention to it because we’re never taught to,” explains Weil.
Exhaustion Cure: Extend Your Exhalations
If you make a conscious effort to deepen your breathing, says Weil, “you’ll sleep better, gain more control over your moods, experience less fatigue, and have better energy overall.” Rather than start by taking a big, deep inhalation, increase your breathing efficiency with a focus on breathing out. “We have more voluntary control over the exhalation,” he explains. By learning to use the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) to expel more air from the lungs, “inhalation will automatically increase.”
For best results, Weil recommends spending a little time every day on breathwork. “Keep it very simple. For several minutes, simply squeeze at the end of every exhalation. You don’t have to sit in any special posture. You can do this anywhere, but lying in bed is a good place to start. Over time, your breath will become more regular, quieter, and deeper.” And your energy level will grow stronger. Remember to set your Zen Timer for a several minutes to remind yourself when to end your practice with a sweet chime sound.
adapted from Body + Soul, September 2009
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