MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
What if I said I had a medicine that would keep you calm but alert? That would relax and energize you? That would help you recover, boost your immune system, lower the oxidative stress that causes aging, power you up, and fuel every cell in your body, from your frazzled brain to your taxed muscles? You’d say, “Give it to me,” right? Well, here it is. And no side effects. Take it every day—doctor’s orders.
Life-changing? Yes, that’s a word I keep hearing over and over from my clients. The first time, I thought it was an exaggeration. “Life-changing?” I cocked my head. “Yes, life-changing,” they would insist, often after only the first session.
Teaching people to breathe is giving them the easiest “lifehack” ever—it fixes the problem (whether it’s breathlessness, anxiety, pain, or acid reflux) from the bottom up, providing an immediate and almost confusing sense of relief. Changing your breathing truly does affect—immediately—the body, mind, and soul. And, most important, the impact takes place at both the cellular and the muscular levels.
You know your breathing could be better. Maybe it just gets “stuck” somewhere on the inhale, or you simply feel that you can never get enough air; or maybe you just sense in your gut that something isn’t quite right. You know how good a big, relaxing sigh and a deep, deep breath feel, and you wish you could hold that sensation longer. You may not know the first thing about respiration and pulmonary medicine beyond the plastic torso you’ve seen in your pediatrician’s office, or the poster for the Heimlich maneuver you’ve stared at while waiting for your food at your favorite take-out place, but the idea of “breathing better” resonates with you. However, it sounds daunting …
Your body wants to breathe in the way it was designed to: in an anatomically congruous way. Right now, it’s not.
Think about that feeling of picking up something you once did well. Something you put aside because life got complicated and the years went by. You start out tentatively, feeling rusty, and then all of a sudden, the motor scooter balances, the piano keys all seem to be in the right place—and your body remembers.
My background as a clinical psychologist working with children led me to focus intently on how the information about breathing was presented in a learning situation. When someone says, “How come no one ever explained it this way?”, usually with an expletive or two along the way, or “This is so easy but so game-changing,” I know I have reached my goal.
I’m talking about life-changing concepts presented in simple, digestible language.
Breathing is the oldest, most basic thing we do every day of our lives. It’s the first thing we must do when we are born, the thing we do most often until our last breath. Everyone breathes, regardless of age and country of origin. That’s why the concept of teaching breathing seems so unusual, doesn’t it? But when you recognize the extensive critical problems incorrect breathing has created, breathing the right way becomes mind-blowing. Simple but mind-blowing. Life-changing.
The very first step is to see how you breathe. Since you’re already reading this book, it might be that you have a very, very specific reason for doing so: It could be a breathing disorder, after having smoked for years, or a feeling of anxiety and a sense that you breathe too fast, or maybe people keep telling you that you “don’t seem to be breathing.”
Just as in any appointment with an expert, when you come to see me, you have to talk about symptoms—but I want to know important details and nuances going all the way back to your childhood. I want to know about you because I truly believe that you are the expert on your own body. I’ll follow with information, recommendations, and homework.
This might be the easiest and the most profound change you will ever make.
Easy? Yes, your body wants to breathe fully. And once you start, you may find yourself saying, “I can’t stop thinking about my breathing” or “I’m almost obsessed with my breathing!” And it’s due to the fact that our breathing has gotten so bad and the explanations feel so intuitively “right,” that a lightbulb of understanding goes off. As a result, it’s hard not to want to make some changes, even if they’re small ones.
You might find you naturally remind yourself about your breathing throughout the day, or you might find that, the first week, you need some help from your electronics to remind you—or you might find that bang, you switch to a perfect breath, and never look back. You might find that you get so good at it, are so excited about it, that you use this knowledge to teach others when they’re stressed or winded.
Research shows, and multimillion-dollar marketing companies know, that health behaviors are the hardest to change. Regardless of the threat or the prize, people often resist changing their ways when it comes to health habits. Yet changing the way people understand respiration and getting them to adjust to it has been oddly easy, and it’s because of two simple things I repeat in class and throughout this book: You used to breathe this way, and your body wants to breathe this way.
This book is meant to be a primer, a first step toward something that somehow has been held as too complex, too natural, too elusive to explain in simple terms. I hope Breathe will inspire and catapult you to do more.
By the time you get to the end of this book you will have changed. How intense and how long-term the change will be is up to you, but I know that it will be impossible for you to read what I’m about to impart to you about breathing—in the way that I present it—and not become a healthier person. Even the teeniest change will be for the better; it will have a huge ripple effect on your mental and physical health, owing to the fact that healthy breathing is the foundation, the very cornerstone of health.
Copyright © 2016 by Belisa Vranich