Some advice is so simple it’s hard to take seriously. Breathing as a healthy weight loss tip? I can already see the rolling eyes. The incredulous smirks. The skeptical looks.
Because breathing is automatic, we tend to take it for granted. We don’t value it’s power the way we should. But deep, slow, focused breathing can change the way you feel, give you an emotional lift, and reduce stress and anxiety – all important aspects of simple healthy weight loss – in minutes!
If you don’t believe me, how about this endorsement from a health and wellness pioneer:
The single most effective relaxation technique I know is conscious regulation of breath. Breath is the key to health and wellness, a function we can learn to regulate and develop in order to improve our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. – Dr. Andrew Weil
Healthy breathing is slow and deep and regular. But when you’re stressed, your breath becomes quicker and shallower, increasing the amount of stress you experience. So, simply changing the way you breathe will enable you to handle stress better.
I bet you can’t even remember the last time you sat quietly and simply focused on your breath. What could be easier? I encourage you to make it a habit to set aside 5 minutes every day to just breathe – in a focused, mindful way. It’s a healthy habit that will surprise you with its power.
How to Take the Short 5-minute Breather
Try it. It’s simple. Just sit and pay attention to your breathing without trying to change it or control it. Just tune into it. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. You may notice your breathing begin to change as you observe it. It may begin to slow and deepen on it’s own. Or you may feel the need to sigh or yawn. Whatever happens is okay.
Did you notice anything? Did paying attention to your breath change how you feel? Did it change your breathing? How? Do you feel any different? Calmer? Relaxed? Centered?
You can take this simple 5 minute breather anytime you feel stressed or anxious to return your body to a state of calm.
And if you tend to be a speed eater like me, try to take several focused breaths before beginning to eat. It can really help prevent you from gobbling down your lunch or dinner too quickly!
Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
Once you’ve done that. Try this powerful breathing technique from Dr. Weil. It’s designed to help make your breath deeper, slower and more regular:
The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise is simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
1) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
2) Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3) Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
5) This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
How Often Should I do this Breathing Exercise?
In the above video, Dr. Weill suggests the following frequency instructions:
- You should do the exercise at least 2 times a day. He does it first thing in the morning and before bed. You can also do it to help you get back to sleep after awakened in the night.
- After a few weeks begin using it in specific situations such as to calm down after being cut off in traffic, to deal with cravings,
- You can do it more often, but not more than 4 breath cycles at a time.
- After a month or two you can increase to 8 cycles at a time, but never more than that.
Benefits of this Deep Breathing Exercise
At the end of this video Dr. Weill describes the benefits he has seen his patients experience after 4 to 6 weeks of consistently doing this exercise including:
- Slows heart rate.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Improves digestion
- Warms hands and feet.
- Stop atrial fibrillation.
How to Enhance Deep Breathing Exercise with Essential Oils?
I like to enhance this breathing exercise with the addition of essential oils. One of the most well-researched benefits of essential oils is their ability to influence our moods and emotions. I apply a drop or two of one of my favorite essential oils to my hands, rub them together, bring my hands up to cup my nose with each inhale. Some of my favorite essential oil and essential oil blends to use for this are (depending on whether I need to be energized, uplifted, grounded, or relaxed):
- Adaptiv Calming Blend
- Breathe Blend
- Balance Grounding Blend
- Peppermint Essential Oil
- Wild Orange Essential Oil
Breathing An Introduction – found at Drweil.com
Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life by Ellie Krieger
Breathe Away Stress – A more in depth controlled breathing exercise
Relax to Lose Weight – If weight gain is caused by stress we need to learn to relax to lose it
Chew More Weigh Less – How slowing down your eating can help you lose weight easily
Why & How to Eat Slower – Eating slowly is key to simple healthy weight loss
Weekly Weight Loss Devotional: Breathe