Guest Post By Cristian Plascencia

Something you do every second of your living life is often overlooked and under-appreciated. And breathing is one of those things. Your breath is a habitual, rhythmic routine that sustains your life. Breathing has the power to change how you perceive the external environment and react to external forces. 

There is a real big buzz with breathing and its play in meditation/mindfulness practices; this would require someone to shift their focus purely on the duration of their inhale and exhale lengths. 

Slowing down your breathing and being in conscious control of your breath is a prime example of how people rely on their breathing to ultimately put themselves in an ideal position to physically and mentally perform.

Breathing & Digestion

Taking control of your breath puts your body in an optimal readiness state to digest your food after meals. For example, most people spend a lot of time in the sympathetic nervous system. 

This system is complemented by the parasympathetic nervous system; the latter focuses upon driving more of the internal processes that help digestion, a lowered heart rate and blood pressure .

The sympathetic system focuses upon facilitating increased heart rate, blood pressure, attentiveness, alertness and heightened physical activity. You can influence your nervous system by slowing down your breath by taking it through your nose. 

Two simple techniques Durable Athlete uses are 2-2-4-1 breathing and breathing between bites. This allows your body to be in a better state to absorb and digest the nutrients food have to offer.

2-2-4-1 Breathing

The breathing technique is simple because you breath through your nose the entire time. Start by taking a 2 second inhale, followed by a 2 second hold of the breath. Then followed by a 4 second exhale, and finishing with a 1 second breath hold.

Repeat for 7 to 15 reps or for 2 to 4 minutes before eating. 

Note-  If you’re interested in this exact process, feel free to download our Durable Athlete app . Here you’ll have access to our full library of breath work videos. Plus, our complete mobility and movement recovery library. Your first 14 days are free with no strings attached.

Breathe Between Bites

Another way for you to better digest and absorb your food is to add a slow inhale and exhale between bites. I have really felt the noticeable impact on my post-meal digestion and energy levels because of this.

We often eat in a rush, and are hurrying from one thing to another.

Giving yourself this “mini-break” between bites allows you to feel how full you really are. Plus you’ll better absorb the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you’re eating.

Breathing And A Restful Nights Sleep

I cannot stress how many people we serve are both physically and mentally under performing and under-recovered. 

Sleep is often something you’ll sacrifice, whether it’s due to the anxiety and stress of a busy day. Or simply a nervous system that is on sympathetic overdrive from too much caffeine or processed food. 

Regardless the causes of poor sleep, there are small, simple actions we can take to ultimately put our mind and body in a better state to receive the benefits of a better night’s sleep.

Slowing the rate of your exhales sets your mind and body up for a restful night of sleep. The slowing of the exhale allows for Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to slowly build up in the bloodstream which facilitates stimulation of the Vagus nerve

Stimulation of this Vagus nerve helps shift your body into a more relaxed and parasympathetic state. And this helps promote the release of hormones in your bloodstream to promote a better nights sleep.

Breathing For A Better Night’s Sleep

One of the practices and routines that we use with our clients  is an extended & modified rectangle breathing routine. Begin with lying on your back with the feet flat on the ground and knees and hips flexed. 

Once in a comfortable posture complete the following routine with inhales and exhales through your nose. 

Begin to inhale through your nose for 3 seconds

Hold your breath for 2 seconds

Exhale for 4 seconds

Finish with a 2 second holding of your breath

The next rounds would proceed the same way, other than modifying the exhale for a second longer each round .

The idea here is to be very slow, intentional, and conscious with each second of your breath. If you feel like you are running out of breath, please slow down and start over with a slow exhale. Being able to execute this practice in the evening time or in times of stress can prove beneficial in your ability to decompress and prepare for a better night’s sleep.

Wrapping Up 

My partner Natalie Higby and I created the Durable Athlete to help people become educated and empower better lifestyle habits. “Small” things like breathing is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Maximizing our breath around our meals and bedtime is a small win that adds to your longevity and performance.   

If you’d like to learn more about our breathing drills, you’ll find them on our Durable Athlete app.

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