often want to achieve a lot while doing very little work, and this usually
happens by looking for some shortcuts. Though I’m not a fan of shortcuts, as
there are rarely any shortcuts to success, what I’m going to discuss today is
an exception. There is indeed a scientifically verified shortcut that will help
you to achieve instant calmness and which will increase your energy. This hack
will also optimise your health. So, what’s that shortcut? Taking some simple
There’s something that you can’t live
without. Yes, you may last for weeks without food, days without water, but what
you truly can’t live without is oxygen. You can only last a few minutes without
oxygen. However, humans rarely appreciate this automatic act. Breathing is
taken for granted and that’s why we hardly ever stop to think about the
importance of it.
If you’ve been reading my articles, you
know that I often talk about four fundamentals for a Lean & Healthy life;
these fundamentals are praying, eating, moving and sleeping. Nevertheless,
knowing what I know now, breathing is definitely on top of my list.
So, get ready to discover the most
undervalued, underappreciated fundamental of all fundamentals: breathing!
Oxygen = Cell fuel
“What if I said I had a medicine that would keep you calm but alert? That would relax and energize you? That would help you recover, boost your immune system, lower the oxidative stress that causes
Dr Belisa Vranich, a leading clinical psychologist
and one of the world’s leading experts on how to breathe talks about the
importance of breathing in her ground-breaking book Breathe!
In her book, Vranich emphasizes that oxygen equals cell fuel. Quoting Dr Arthur Guyon’s research, Vranich writes, “all chronic pain, suffering, and disease are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level . . . Proper breathing nourishes the cells of the body with oxygen, and optimizes the functioning of the body on all levels”
The importance of oxygen stretches far
beyond your imagination. Take your brain for instance. Your brain utilizes 20%
of the oxygen you breathe. This means that your productivity, memory power,
decision-making ability and mental health all depend highly on the oxygen you
Let that sink in for a minute.
So, if you’re not breathing properly you’re
simply not performing optimally. Full stop.
So, finding it difficult to focus? Breathe
properly. Finding it difficult to make a decision? Breathe properly. Feeling
anxious and stressed out? Breathe properly. Annoyed with a loved one? Breathe
Does breathing properly sounds like a
panacea? To some extent it is! Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Dr
Kelly McGonigal says in her book, The Willpower Instinct:
“You won’t find many quick fixes in this book, but there is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath—slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode. A few minutes of this technique will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges”.
The Art of Slow Breathing
Now, science is unequivocal about this. If
you want to breathe properly, breathe less! Yes, just like overeating is
unhealthy for you, over breathing is unhealthy for you too.
My job as a coach is to simplify the
science so that you can take immediate action. Here are three simple rules to
remember to breathe less.
Rule #1: Breathe through your nose
Now this may sound obvious, but the fact is
most people, unbeknownst to them, inhale through their mouth. Breathing through
your mouth, in general, is bad for you (except for when you’re running hard from
a dog chasing you J).
According to Dr Vranich, “Mouth breathing can also disrupt the pH
balance of the blood, making it too alkaline. Alkalosis can lead to feelings of
apprehension, anxiety, and chronic pain conditions.
breathing, on the other hand, has its own benefits, including increases of CO2
saturation in the blood, which creates a calming effect” (INSERT PAGE NUMBER).
So, what’s the easiest way to breathe
through your nose? Keep your mouth shut.
Allah(SWT)created your mouth to eat
and talk and your nose to breathe and smell. And there is wisdom in each of
Allah’s creation. Science now say that when you breathe through your nose, the
air you inhale will be filtered and humidified. This means that there are fewer
chances for harmful pathogens to enter into your body.
Rule #2: Breathe into your belly
When you take deep breaths through your nose, you’ll eventually breathe into your belly. Here is a simple way to check whether or not you are breathing into your ageing. Keep your right hand on the belly and take a deep breath through your nose (while keeping your mouth shut). Is your belly expanding while breathing? If the answer is yes, then you’re doing it right.
Check out this video from Dr Vranich on the correct way to breathe in.
Rule #3: Exhale slightly longer than you inhale
When you exhale slightly longer than you
inhale, you are in fact turning on your parasympathetic nervous system, which
helps you to relax.
But exhaling has another extremely
important function. Your exhaling is responsible for 70% of your body’s
detoxification! That’s right, if you are not correctly exhaling, you are not
detoxifying correctly. Squeezing out the air out of your diaphragm also means
that you’re detoxifying your body. Subhanallah,
what an inexpensive way to detoxify!
5+2+7 = Magic
Now here is a simple way to implement all
these three rules easily.
What does 5, 2 and 7 stands for? They stand
- Inhale for 5 seconds (obviously
through your nose),
- Hold your breath for 2 seconds
- Exhale (again through your
nose) for 7 seconds
- Repeat these steps 5 times
The instant calm and increased energy I
talked about is just achieved through this simple exercise. All it takes is just
a minute, you can do this anywhere, and anytime you like.
Here is how
I use it:
after waking up
going to sleep
I start to write
I start to do any productive work
I feel annoyed
I find it difficult to focus
I feel anxious and stressed out
my kids push me to my limits J
As you see,
you can use this simple technique in many areas throughout your day. The more
you use it, the better you become at this technique and the better you’ll feel
throughout your day, bi’idnillah!
Increase Your Gains
If you want
to increase your gains exponentially, do this breathing technique along with
sending Salawath upon the Prophet Muhammed (SAW).
bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: I heard the
Messenger of Allah (SAW) saying: “Whoever supplicates Allah to exalt my
mention (i.e., send salah), Allah will exalt his mention (i.e., send salah) ten
times and remove from him ten sins and raise him ten degrees.” (Muslim)
imagine what will truly happen to you when Allah Himself sends blessings upon
Something to Reflect
was in a high-stakes meeting. Just before the meeting, I was very nervous, so I
decided to make this breathing technique and eventually spent time on sending Salawath upon the Prophet Muhammed
meeting, one of the high-ranking officer asked me how I managed to be so calm
despite being scrutinized by four people with endless questions. My answer was
just a smile; I didn’t want to explain to him what I had prepared beforehand J.
My point in
sharing this story is that you can always make an act that’s beneficial to you
a good deed by incorporating aspects of the Deen.
So the next time you feel stressed out or tired, remember the steps that I
mentioned and try the breathing exercise. It will definitely change your mood.