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The Breath Blueprint: Part 1 of 3
An Introduction to Conscious Breathing
Our mind’s default setting is one that is congested and polluted. Like a house that often needs a good clean or a car that needs a regular oil change. A while ago I shared some quick-hitting tips to help clear your mental pollution. One of the tools was conscious breathing, AKA breathwork.
Breathwork is the active form of consciously changing the rhythm, rates, and depths of your breath to access and process mental, physical, and emotional tension and enter a higher state of awareness.
Breathwork is the practice of consciously directing your breathing in a certain way to alter certain processes in your body and mind. Breathwork requires conscious effort to change your breathing and in turn change your state. It can be done anywhere, at any time, with relative ease.
In this three part series on breathwork, we will explore:
Part 1: The psychological, emotional, and physical benefits of breathwork.
Part 2: How breathing can be used easily and practically to augment your daily effectiveness.
Part 3: Ways in which combining breathwork with other mindfulness & grounding techniques results in a performance multiplier effect.
I would like to suggest that conscious breathing is the #1 tool in a leader’s performance tool kit. This is because of how reliably effective, and available, it is. I’ve leaned on it thousands of times. My hope is that this exploration will result in you moving from the shoreline and into the deep end, fully familiarizing and immersing yourself in the power of your breath and finding ways to lean on it as a reliable tool as well.
My promise to you is that if you follow along, and allow yourself to experiment, you will experience a more significant reduction in your stress levels, alongside an increased sense of presence, leadership efficacy, and positive well-being.
The Benefits of Breathwork
Normal breathing tends to be passively driven, providing enough gaseous exchange to simply keep us alive. Conscious breathing expands the potential of our body & mind, allowing us to achieve profound states of peace, clarity, and performance.
Taking a moment to focus on the breath can work wonders for our well-being, especially in stressful situations with work, or at home. Let’s dive into some of the benefits of controlled breathing exercises:
Breathe Easy, Stress Less (1979) - In a landmark study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers discovered that controlled breathing exercises can be a game-changer when it comes to coping with stress. “Results indicate that slowing respiration rate reduced physiological arousal and reduced self-reports of anxiety”.
Activate Your Calm Mode (2005) - Deep, slow breathing exercises were found to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps decrease heart rate and blood pressure. More on the parasympathetic nervous system in Part 2 of this series.
Take a Breath, Ease the Pain (2012) - A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine revealed that participants with chronic pain experienced improved pain processing after practicing relaxing breathing techniques.
Breathe Away PTSD (2014) - The power of Pranayama, an ancient breathing technique, was uncovered in a study that focused on US veterans with PTSD. They found that this breathing technique was successful in helping these individuals manage their post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Tame Anxiety, Breathe Deep (2016) - Participants with anxiety saw a reduction in their anxiety scores after incorporating a diaphragmatic breathing program into their daily routine. Deep breathing helped participants find calm and regain control.
Breathwork to Improve Attention (2018) - Researchers from Trinity College Dublin conducted a study that showed breathwork can significantly improve attention spans. Conscious breathing has the power to ground us during stressful demanding times and calibrate our concentration.
Sleep Soundly with Breathwork (2018) - A study demonstrated that self-regulated breathing techniques were successful in helping participants relax and fall asleep.
Breathe Confidently (2019) - Communication expert Russell Rowe recently highlighted the benefits of breathing exercises for boosting confidence before public speaking.
Conscious breathing can increase our ability to cope with stress, pain, and anxiety. It can increase our attention spans & confidence, all while decreasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and insomnia. Countless studies show that incorporating mindful breathing exercises into your routine can have a profound impact on your well-being.
In the next article of this series, we explore ways to practice mindful, conscious breathing amidst your day-to-day. You’ll become armed with an easy, reliable, flexible tool that can positively shift your emotional, mental, and physical state and in turn your underlying potential.
Blog cover image credit: Kerry Shaw
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