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Is breathing the new meditating?

You wish to get rid of stress, but wonder how? Believe it or not, but  two or three physical sighs can do the trick! According to neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, this is how inner peace can be achieved. Simple breathing exercises are usually much easier to implement than meditation. Why this is so and how you can find relaxation with the right breathing technique, you will learn here.

Does this sound familiar to you? In everyday life, all kinds of thoughts constantly keep us on our toes. We feel stressed, lose the bigger picture, and the world rushes past us. A jumble of thoughts, memories, and worries keeps us from consciously experiencing the moment. How nice it would be to be able to press the stop button in these moments, turn our attention back to ourselves, and experience peace and serenity.

According to neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, all you have to do to achieve that is change the way you look at your environment. He says it is not about what we perceive, but rather about how we respond to what we perceive – with our eyes and with our breathing.

Meditation and breath work - similar, but not the same

Many people are familiar with finding peace through meditation. However, just as many fail in the attempt to meditate – “switching off” one’s thoughts is more difficult than expected and often the attempt leaves one with the realisation that “Meditating is simply not for me”. Whoever meditates closes themselves off from the outside world and concentrates on an inner point of reference. Most often, a meditation method based on one’s breath is chosen, because its rhythmic movement (inhaling and exhaling) helps one stay focused. Meditating is not about changing the rhythm of one’s breathing, but simply observing one’s natural breathing.

Instead of meditating, try counteracting stress with special breathing techniques. The power of breathing is enormous and breathing exercises are usually much easier to implement than meditation. The way we breathe has a very strong effect on our level of stress. Each of us are able to start breathing more consciously and the effects can be triggered in seconds.

Breath work can be described as consciously directing breathing in a specific direction to affect certain processes in the body and the mind. Unlike meditation, which is a purely cognitive process, breathwork requires consciously changing your breathing with a specific goal or outcome in mind. Depending on the technique or method, this may mean breathing deeper or shallower, slower or faster, toward the belly or the chest, through the nose or through the mouth, and sometimes omitting the pauses between inhalation and exhalation. And there are countless ways of trying this.

When stressed, just two or three physical sighs can help. That is because data from a study by Andrew Huberman show that humans and animals emit these sighs during sleep and in confined conditions, which is a double inhale followed by exhale. Children do this when they sob. Two or three physiological sighs are the fastest known way to bring autonomic arousal back to normal levels. So-called box breathing – inhaling, holding your breath, exhaling, and holding, all for the same duration of time – can also help.

Breathing is an automatic physiological process, but that does not mean we cannot control it. This is because the breath and the brain are connected through the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the only organ in the body that is a voluntary skeletal muscle and can therefore be controlled directly. Breathing is the bridge between conscious and unconscious bodily control. When we inhale, the diaphragm moves downward. This allows room for the heart to expand a little, and the blood flow through it slows down somewhat. The heart informs the brain about this, and the brain in turn understands it as an indication that the heart should increase its output. By breathing in and out more, we can consciously increase our heart rate. It also works the other way around: when we exhale, our heart rate slows down.

Meditation and breathing techniques are the ideal combination. Meditation helps your mind calm down and increases mental resistance, and breathing techniques allow you to get in touch with yourself and process stress. You can, for example, simply breathe yourself to sleep. In short, these two techniques can be very helpful throughout your daily life. You simply have to be willing to try them!