Most of us don’t breathe the right way. In fact, we use at most 20% of our lung capacity. But research from Harvard credits breath work to lift depression, relieve stress and anecdotal evidence suggests you can lose weight, perhaps connecting with our breath is more powerful than we had first thought?
“Breath is quite literally life,” says Alan Dolan, Global Breath Expert, “When you breathe better, you live better.” When the breath is out of kilter – shallow and disconnected – your body automatically holds this as stress and tension. But get the breath right and you start flooding cells with oxygen and energy and the body begins to heal, recalibrate and release the toxins responsible for holding weight.
But can connecting with our breath really whittle down our waist? According to Jill Johnson, the US founder of Oxycise it can be truly transformative. This popular deep-breathing technique focuses on using the diaphragm flexing and contracting muscles to help lose weight according to Johnson who went from a size 16 to a size 6 in a six month period. “Reducing your oxygen intake slows your metabolism and deprives your cells from receiving their most basic nutrient making it impossible for your body to properly metabolise fat,” explains Johnson. “The reverse is also true – increasing your oxygen intake revs up your metabolism and allows your body to thrive, breathing well is key to a slender, healthier body,” says Johnson.
Sounds almost too good to be true but a study from the University of Southern California showed that subjects burned 140% more calories with 15 minutes of Oxycise breathing and stretching techniques that when riding a stationary bike.
So how does it work? According to Stuart Sandeman, Founder of Breath Pod breath work can realign your physical, mental and emotional states. “When you’re in alignment physically, mentally and emotionally you feel better, move better, have more energy and make better and healthier choices – a healthy body shape is a bi-product of this,” he explains. Breathing practices can challenge our body like a physical workout. “Our diaphragm works as a pump for the lymphatic system which clears toxins from our cells,” he explains. “Losing weight requires unlocking the carbon stored in the fat cells and when the oxygen we breathe reaches fat molecular, it breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water, to be exhaled.”
Consciously breathing deeply can also has a profound effect on our posture too. Like so many of us, we are stuck in a shallow ‘holding’ pattern day-to-day with a typical desk posture shouldered, hunched forwards constricting our breath. Even holding your stomach in can create tension in the body. “The breath becomes short and shallow which sends a signal of stress to the brain and you limit the oxygen to your cells,” he explains. “This can lead to physical illness, lack of energy, fatigue and can trigger stress, anxiety and even depression.”
According to the experts when we mindfully breathe deeply, expanding our lungs, you sit up taller, your stomach appears flatter and you look brighter. “We forget that the rib cage is not a rigid structure,” says Sandeman. “Most of us use our secondary breathing muscles – the upper trapezius in the chest and the scalenes in the neck, and when we start to use the primary ones which are the four layers of our abdominals, the diaphragm and the intercostals in between the ribs, our entire posture changes giving the appearance of being leaner and longer.”
So how do we better our breath? In a calm, quiet space, visualise a balloon in your abdomen. Inflate the balloon by deeply inhaling via your mouth for three seconds, then exhale for one – the aim is to create a continuous flow with no pauses. Do ten minutes every day to see results from anti-ageing benefits to easing pain and even losing a few pounds.