Air as a Performance Enhancer
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Can breathing-in normal everyday air provide a performance-enhancing effect on your body?
It’s not the latest craze among Olympic athletes or the newest fad supplement on store shelves. The technique of breathing, holding and releasing air in a specific sequence has been performed by humans for countless generations in order to optimize brain function, heart rate, nerve activity and overall physical and mental performance.
In this article you will learn how to take advantage of these benefits in less than five minutes.
Breathing For Peak Performance
It’s been shown in study after study that slow deep breathing exercises and yogic breathing (pranayama) create significant beneficial changes in physiologically to perform wonders on the human body. So why do we need to do it in the first place…aren’t we already breathing? Well yes, but typically our breathing is highly unregulated. Here’s why.
In our daily lives technology bombards us with a tremendous amount of sensory input. Radios, television, our cell phones, planes, trains, automobiles and other common environmental elements (e.g. people, advertisements, flashing lights, etc) affect us more than we know.
Essentially anything that you can perceive with your five senses all generate “internal noise” and large amounts of data that overload our sympathetic nervous system. This in turn stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response which you don’t want if you don’t need it.
On a daily basis your body is actually being primed for action by external stimuli in the same manner that a situation threatening survival would – not a place where you want to constantly be for no good reason. An example of what happens internally in a fight-or-flight response would be when experiencing heart failure the sympathetic nervous system increases its activity leading to increased force of muscular contractions resulting in an increase in the stroke volume and other complications.
Your body’s nature desire is to be in a state of homeostasis – which is it’s natural tendency to maintain a condition of balance and equilibrium.
Our goal here in this article is to activate our parasympathetic nervous system – the one responsible for the stimulation of the “rest-and-digest” state and the restoration of balance after a stressful experience.
Ok, biology lesson over! Let’s jump into technique.
Ok, that isn’t an actual supplement but I created this graphic to leave the impression that AIR is all around us in abundance as an incredibly useful resource. No purchase required.
The 4/16/8 Method
I prefer to do perform this exercise upon rising, facing the sunrise with air from an open window or door allowing outside air to enter the room. Performing this outdoors is even better.
Close your eyes, relax your face, jaw, neck and shoulders. Allow all the muscles in your body to come to rest. Keep your arms at your side and as you begin this breathing exercise slowly raise your hands upward as you inhale as if you are conducting a symphony. As you exhale feel free to lower your hands and arms slowly if you choose. You can also perform this exercise after any stressful activity (e.g. after leaving the DMV).
through your nose for a count of 4
your breath in for a count of 16
slowly through your mouth for a count of 8
This sequence equals one breathing cycle. Simple right?
TIPS: Your count should be as close to real seconds as possible. Your multiple for holding your breath will always be four times as long as you inhale and you’ll always exhale one-half the length of time you held your breath. So as you progress daily and improve, your breathing cycle will continue to follow this pattern.
Whatever you may be capable of, repeat this breathing cycle twice more for a total of three cycles per session. Feel free to increase the number of cycles as you become more comfortable. The result will be greater lung capacity and increased oxygen flow into the brain and bloodstream. You will notice in a few short days that you are able to hold your breath for two to three times as long as when you first began. Daily repetition will result in the capacity to hold your breath up to and exceeding one full minute.
Your greatest benefit will be that your physiology and mental clarity at the start of your day will be primed for peak state to take on whatever life brings your way.