Breathing

Breathing Conversation with Dr. Leslie Blevins

Dr. Leslie Blevins invited me to have a conversation about breathing. She’s a child psychologist who specializes in working with parents and children. We share a passion for bringing a sense of peace and joy to life, even/especially when things are challenging.

In this video, we share two short breathing practices and talk about:

  • Breathing for calm
  • Breathing practices for kids
  • Aligning with what’s important to us
  • iRest Yoga Nidra
  • & more

Heart Rate Variability

This month and next, the focus is on breathing. The breath is a gateway to our physiology, psychology, and even our behavior.

Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA) is the natural occurrence of the variation of the heart rate during the breath cycle. As we breathe in, the heart rate speeds up a bit, as we breathe out, it slows down. This is a good thing, an arrhythmia that you actually want.

The measurement of this variation is called Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and it’s a measure of resilience. Low HRV is associated with the chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. When we’re stressed, there’s minimal to no variation in heart rate. High HRV is associated with a strong parasympathetic foundation and is associated with increased cardiovascular fitness and increased stress resilience.

Ways to improve your heart rate variability

  • practice mindfulness/meditation/yoga
  • get quality sleep
  • get regular physical activity
  • practice slow breathing and/or lengthened exhalations
  • connect with your favorite people or animals
  • eat a variety of healthy foods
  • spend time in nature

A short practice that you can do anywhere, anytime

Take a few minutes now to focus on your breathing. Slow down your breath, and imagine a small increase in your heart rate as you breathe in. As you breathe out, visualize your heartbeat slowing down. Breathe in oxygen; breathe out tension.

Nose Breathing for the Lungs

The Benefits of Nose Breathing

We have two ways to get air into our lungs – by nose or by mouth. Which one is better? Does it matter? It does.

Nose breathing warms, humidifies, and filters the air. It slows down the breath. When you breathe though your nose, the air is delivered to your lungs with nitric oxide that’s produced in the sinus cavities around the nasal passages.

With nitric oxide, more oxygen enters the bloodstream. Nitric oxide also dilates blood vessels to improve blood flow and boosts immune function; it works to protect against harmful bacteria and viruses.

Mouth breathing increases the likelihood of snoring, sleep apnea, tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and dehydration along with less oxygen uptake in the lungs.

Although there’s a clear winner, breathing through the nose isn’t always easy. If you have chronic congestion or infections or other breathing trouble, talk with your doctor.

Sometimes though, it’s a matter of habit and practice. Take a few moments to breathe slowly through your nose and visualize the nitric oxide being delivered as a gift to your lungs, improving the ability to absorb oxygen and transport it through your body. Try starting and ending your day with a few minutes of mindful nose breathing, and if possible, add a few more sessions throughout the day.

Here are two short guided meditations to support your practice.
4-Minute Breathing Practice
Begin the Day with Clarity

The takeaway: The nose is for breathing and smelling; the mouth is for eating and tasting. While it’s nice to have a backup system and have the option to breathe through the mouth when it’s necessary, the nose is the clear winner for optimal breathing.