Lose Weight by Breathing… Really!

The amount of oxygen in our blood determines whether we have enough energy and the rate of our aging.  Breathing is probably the most important function of the body and oxygen is, by far, the most vital element for staying alive. Your brain cannot function without oxygen.  Without sufficient oxygen, the brain literally shuts down.

You would think that we know how to breathe properly!  We have been breathing our whole life.  However, we often take shallow breaths or, even worse, hold our breath when we are under pressure or are intensely focused on a task.  This lowers the oxygen level in our system causing fatigue and lack of clarity.  As a result, we often make poor decisions in those stressful situations when we need to be our best.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle or sitting for extended periods in front of the computer or TV also creates a serious oxygen deficit.  Have you ever noticed that you may actually feel exhausted after vegging out in front of TV?  How could you feel so tired when you didn’t do much?  Your fatigue is caused by a lack of oxygen.

Oxygen is a highly flammable substance that speeds up chemical reactions.  In the body, oxygen thins the blood a little which helps lower your blood pressure and speed up the flow of blood.  This increases your metabolism and burns more calories.  The more oxygen you have in your blood the faster your metabolism will be.  You burn fewer calories sitting in a stuffy room versus sitting outside in the fresh air.  Cool air causes an additional increase in your metabolic rate because you need to expend more energy to keep the body at a comfortable temperature.  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.

Your oxygen intake is much higher when exercising in nature versus exercising inside a gym.  You burn more calories exercising outside!

When you are physically active your breathing becomes deeper and you receive more oxygen.  More vigorous exercising causes an even greater demand for oxygen.  A greater demand forces you to breathe faster and deeper so that more oxygen will enter your bloodstream.  Some fitness fanatics will even go so far as to hook up to an oxygen machine while on a treadmill.  In our humble opinion, this is completely unnecessary.  In fact, in our own experiments, using medical grade oxygen machines did not create noticeable results.  Also, be aware that oxygen can be toxic at high concentrations!  To get the most benefit you simply need oxygen-rich fresh air.  The easiest (and usually the cheapest) way to get this is by exercising in nature when possible.  Trees and plants generate healthy, oxygen-rich air.  Get out in nature as often as you can.  Plan a hike, take a bike ride, or do some other form of activity while you are outside.

This all sounds great, but what if you are stuck at the office sitting in front of the computer for hours?  What if you are too busy to fit in an hour or two of aerobic exercise into your day?  We have good news for you!  Deep, active breathing can increase your oxygen intake even when done for just 1 to 2 minutes at a time!

Yoga and Tai Chi practitioners have known this for centuries!  You will probably never meet a yogi running or performing Jumping Jacks, but they are lean and their bodies are perfectly toned.  Yogis are known for their health and longevity.  Tai Chi movements are slow and may even appear easy to perform, but Tai Chi masters have incredible power.  One of their secrets is proper breathing!

We are going to share with you some very simple Deep Breathing Exercises that will immediately increase your energy level.  These exercises will promote relaxation and give you a better awareness and appreciation of your body.  They’ll help speed up your metabolism, give you clarity of mind and help reduce stress.  At the same time you’ll be strengthening your back and abdominal muscles.  These exercises will even improve the effectiveness of your workouts when done just prior to starting.

Where Can I Do These Exercises?

You can do these exercises anywhere – sitting down, standing up or even while walking.  The Level 1 exercise may also be performed lying down, but the Level 2 and Level 3 exercises should only be done while sitting or standing.  If you want to try these exercises while walking you’ll have an easier time if you don’t hold your breath between your inhales and exhales.

Lying Down

Lie on a flat surface with your knees bent.  Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.

Sitting

You can either sit on the floor or in a chair.  If you’re comfortable sitting on the floor, just be sure that your back is completely straight and not convex.  If this isn’t possible, then simply sit in a chair.  When sitting in a chair move to the edge of your seat and sit with your back as straight as possible.  Don’t lean against the back of your chair.  Place your hands on your knees or, if you’re at work, rest them on your desk.

Standing

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly and rest your hands on your thighs. Keep your spine straight and your head in line with your spine. Drop your shoulders away from your head and elongate your spine.  Reach the crown of your head to the sky.

Breathing Tips

When performing these exercises the inhale should start in your abdomen.  Start your inhale by expanding your belly, then your ribcage and finish by filling the top of your chest.  Your shoulders should not rise when inhaling, but should remain relaxed.  Follow a similar pattern when exhaling, but try to make your exhale twice as long as your inhale.  Start your exhale in your abdomen, move to your ribcage, and then finish by emptying the top of your lungs.

Focus on your breath during each exercise.  You can even close your eyes to help improve your focus and relaxation.  Some of these exercises may be very energizing, so you may not want to practice them right before going to sleep.

Warning!
You need to build your capacity for deep breathing gradually.  If you do it with great intensity too quickly, you may feel light headed.  Your body needs to adjust to the increased level of oxygen.  For this reason, we recommend that you start with the Level 1 exercise.  After doing the Level 1 exercise for a week or two introduce Level 2.  After you have been practicing the Level 2 exercise for a few weeks you can step up your practice to Level 3.  The Level 1, 2 and 3 exercises are outlined below.

Level 1 (Beginner)

Breathing for Relaxation

Step 1:     Exhale all the air from your lungs and then some until there’s no more air left.  You will notice that by exhaling completely you will automatically be able to inhale more air.

Step 2:     Inhale slowly through the nose for a 4-count.

Step 3:     Hold your breath for an 8-count.

If you are a complete beginner, don’t hold your breath or hold your breath for a shorter period of time and gradually build up to an 8-count.

Step 4:     Exhale slowly through the mouth for an 8-count.  Fully expel all of the air from your lungs.

Step 5:     Hold your breath for an 8-count.

If you are a complete beginner, don’t hold your breath or hold your breath for a shorter period of time and gradually build up to an 8-count.

Step 6:     Check your posture and repeat Steps 2 – 5.

How Long and How Often to Practice

Practice this technique several times a day.  Start by taking 10 breaths during each session.  After a week or two and once you get used to the breathing exercise, slowly increase each session until you are practicing for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.

Even in the very beginning you should immediately notice that you feel calmer, more composed, relaxed and have more energy.

Level 2 (Intermediate)

Breathing to Energize and Clear the Mind

Do not lie down for this exercise.  Make sure that you’ve practiced the Level 1 exercise for at least a week before moving to Level 2.

Step 1:     Exhale all the air from your lungs and then some until there’s no more air left.

Step 2:     Inhale slowly through the nose for a 4-count.  When you feel that you have completely filled your lungs, inhale a couple more sips of air.

Step 3:     Hold your breath for an 8-count.  Over time, work on holding your breath four-times longer than your inhalation time.

Step 4:     Purse your lips and exhale through the mouth for an 8-count.  When you feel that you’ve emptied your lungs, exhale a little more.

Step 5:     Hold your breath for an 8-count keeping your abdomen and ribcage contracted.  Over time, work on holding your breath for twice the amount of time you took to exhale.

Step 6:     Check your posture and repeat Steps 2 – 5.

How Long and How Often to Practice

Practice this exercise a few times a day especially when you feel tired.  Your initial sessions should be 2-5 minutes long.  As you get used to this new technique increase your sessions to 5-10 minutes.  Do not rush – build up gradually!

Once you get to the point where you’re practicing 4 times a day for 5 minutes at a time, you likely won’t feel tired at all and will having increasing amounts of energy.

Level 3 (Intermediate)

“Fire Breathing” Exercise to Significantly Increase Metabolism

Do not lie down for this exercise.  This exercise requires more privacy, so you may want to find a place where you can be alone for a few minutes.  Make sure that you’ve practiced the Level 2 exercise for several weeks before moving to Level 3.  Do not practice this exercise in an environment with heavily polluted air.

Throughout this exercise focus your mind on the middle of your forehead between your eyebrows and about an inch above.  This energy center is called the “Third Eye”.

Step 1:     Exhale all the air from your lungs and then some until there’s no more air left.

Step 2:     Inhale slowly through the nose for a 4-count.  When you feel that you have completely filled your lungs, inhale a couple more sips of air.

Step 3:     Hold your breath for an 8-count.

Step 4:     In this step, you’ll be “fire breathing” – exhaling and inhaling quickly for several minutes using your abdominal muscles.  Do not pause between your exhales or inhales.

Make four, short, powerful exhalations followed by four, short, powerful inhalations.  Inhalation must be through the nose; and try to make exhalations through the pursed lips, for added abdominal strength.

Each four-pulse inhale cycle should fill your lungs to capacity.  Each four-pulse exhale cycle should completely empty your lungs.  Deliberately expand your abdominal muscles to draw air in and contract them to force air out.

Repeat this process for several minutes.

Step 5:     On your last inhale, breathe in just a little bit more and then hold your breath for as long as you can before exhaling.

How Long and How Often to Practice

Practice “Fire Breathing” once or twice a day.  Unless you have been practicing breathing exercises for a few months, you will most likely only be able to handle 1 to 2 minutes of this exercise at a time.  Over time, increase your sessions to last 5 to 10 minutes.  You can continue to practice the Level 1 and Level 2 exercises throughout the day along with your “Fire Breathing”.

Advanced Breathing Exercises:

Advanced Breathing is best practiced with an instructor.  If you are ready for this level, check out your local Yoga studios that teach Pranayama.  Prana means “life force energy” (or breath) and Yama means “control or mastery of”.  Pranayama uses breath to master the “inner winds” flowing throughout the internal energy channels.  This book is not a place to describe Pranayama. You really do not need this level of practice unless you are also interested in advanced levels of meditation. If you want to learn Pranayama, but do not have access to a studio with a reputable Pranayama instructor, your next best option would be a good video program.  However, it has been our experience that a video rarely replaces good, personal Pranayama instructions especially if you are new to it.

Make proper breathing a habit!  Knowledge without action is fruitless. To form a solid habit of proper breathing, you must program your psyche by constantly reminding yourself of the vital benefits of slow, deep breathing.  After all, you spent all the years of your life enforcing your current breathing habits!  By simply listening to the Perfect Body Audio CD everyday, you will find yourself resorting to slower and deeper breathing more and more frequently throughout the day.

Affirmation for the day:

“I take time throughout the day to take several deep, slow breaths. Deep slow breathing helps me to clear my mind and become centered.”

PS: To get your FREE eBook with over 100 powerful affirmations and make sure that you don’t miss any of the insights and excites on creating your perfect body, subscribe to my Email Newsletter on the right side of this page.

I would love to hear from you! Did you find this article helpful? Do you have questions? Please let me know in the Comments section below.

Article and Affirmations by Mila Diamond
Copyright 2012 Diamond Mind Coaching, LLC. All rights reserved.



About Mila Diamond

Mila Diamond is an author, speaker and international success mentor. She believes that an outstanding life begins with optimal health and the correct mindset. Mila helps women to step into their feminine power, create success, feel refreshed and unstoppable! Mila's coaching connects the physical with a positive mental perspective and spiritual, soulful journey. With her articles on this site, Mila looks to inspire, empower and unite women from all over the world - sister to sister, heart to heart.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I remember learning breathing exercises years ago. Thank you for reminding me of the importance again. I plan to begin today!!! Your descriptions are so easy to follow.

    • Mila Diamond says:

      Thank you, Kathy! Good luck!! If you have any questions about the techniques, you can also post them on our Facebook page. ~Mila

  2. Becky says:

    Great post! I have not been breathing correctly and did not know that. What an eye opener. Never liked the stuffiness of the gym anyway, now I’m moving my exercise out doors for sure. I practised proper breathing just while reading this post and am amazed how much better and clearer I feel already. Thanks!

    • Mila Diamond says:

      Becky – you are welcome! I am delighted that this article helped you! Yes, we are much more mechanical than we realize. The ways we do many things, including breathing, is habitual… but NOT optimal. In Hatha Yoga, conscious breathing is the center of the practice. It is what makes it so powerful. Best to you! ~Mila

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