Is Poor Breathing Making You Sick?

This is the last of the 6 life-hacks, one that is easy to apply, will not take time from your day but will have a huge impact on your physical, mental and emotional health. It is the ultimate detox, the ultimate stress buster, immune booster and the best performance enhancer 2nd to sleep, but in turn impacts the quality of your sleep. It is the CONSCIOUS use of the breath (commonly known as prana or chi), associated with spirit, passion, life, power and magnetism.
It is important that you understand what is going on with the breath and its impact on the chemical and physiological activities of the body which includes the mind. Knowing this gives you ultimate control so you can put yourself in any desired state depending on what you want to achieve in the moment.

There are two types of breathing:

Subconscious ‘natural’ breathing. This is controlled by what is going on in your heart and mind.

Conscious breathing where you bring your awareness to the breath. This conversely controls your heart and mind.

And there are two states or outcomes from your breathing. They either step you into your:

Parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) – usually associated with nose breathing

Sympathetic (fight or flight) – associated with mouth breathing

Both states serve a purpose so there is no such thing as good or bad but rather, a natural state or unnatural state. If you are running a race, engaging the sympathetic with mouth breathing is important, but the same mouth breathing sitting at a desk fretting is unnatural.

The breath is a gateway to multiple states and the purpose of this article is to teach you the different techniques so you can use the breath as a very powerful tool. Stressed? No problem you will know what to do. Needing energy? No problem again. Needing creativity? Etc….

Whatever technique you choose below, there is one powerful element that is common to all: AWARENESS! Awareness is the magic ingredient. I will now share with you the techniques I have learned over the years and read about from pioneers like Dan Brule. His book Just Breathe was life-changing.

Breathing for STRESS RELIEF OR SLEEP

This is a technique I created for myself that is a combination diaphragmatic and box breathing. It is the quickest way to interrupt the fight or flight stress response and trigger the body’s normal relaxation response. The added benefit to this technique is that it strengthens the diaphragm and trains the body to breath from the belly subconsciously.

“When the breath is shallow, the mind is unsteady but when the breath is calmed the mind is still; therefore, when you control the breath, you control your mind” – Swatmarama Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The technique: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, out for 4 and hold for four. Your belly should rise and fall with each breath in and out. Repeat 10 times or for as long as you require to notice your body relax. You will know it. When you are in an anxious state the first 4 reps are difficult but if you persist, you will literally change your body chemistry in a few minutes. Mentally counting will help.

Breathing For DETOX

Use this technique if you feel like you are coming down with something or if you are stuck in air-conditioning all day. Do it outside in fresh air.

Did you know that 70% of detox happens by the lungs through the breath? So, if you are shallow breathing throughout the day, you are not detoxing efficiently. We typically shallow breath when we are driving, on devices or in meetings. You will get tired, get brain fog and impact your immune system. That’s why this life-hack is so important! Especially if you are an office worker like me.

The following breathing technique takes 63 seconds twice a day. That’s all. A lot of people don’t believe that something so simple will have any effect, so they will not do it. Science has proven that this simple breathing technique, will trigger the release of endorphins, stimulates the lymphatic system and expels carbon monoxide.

The Technique: Place your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for 7 and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat 3 times. It may feel weird, but it will feel natural after a few goes.

Breathing for CREATIVITY

Creativity comes from the heart not the mind. The heart is where the seat of passion is. It is no co-incidence that the lungs wrap around the heart. And when you take a deep breath, the heart expands and this takes you out of the head and into your heart. Only then can you tap into your creativity. Try this simple technique to help you get creative. I do this every morning after meditation. It only takes a few minutes and makes me super sharp throughout the day.

Alternate nostril breathing: While sitting, close your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale and then inhale through your left nostril. Release your right nostril and close your left nostril with your ring finger. Exhale and then inhale through your right nostril. And repeat for a few minutes. I do 5 minutes. You can use your left hand. Breath naturally. Once you get the hang of it, it will start to flow naturally. This technique is also popular with Aussie health researcher and ayurvedic medicine practitioner, Mark Bunn.

Breathing for PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT & DEPRESSION Relief

There are many benefits claimed to what is now known as the Wim Hoff breathing method, made famous by the endurance athlete Wim Hoff. Anything from asthma management, Lyme disease treatment, arthritis and fibromyalgia relief, boosting concentration and increasing willpower. The only well documented benefits are performance enhancement from boosting energy and significantly relieving depression. I will not list the science here because if you Google it you will find a tonne of info on this method from multiple research universities. I will also note for the sake of mention that this method is very similar to a technique invented by Leonard Orr.

The Technique: Take 30 quick and deep breaths inhaling consciously through the nose and exhaling naturally through your mouth. Don’t try and control the out-breath. Just let it go. After 30 deep breaths exhale the last breath and then hold until you are gasping to breathe in. Inhale again as deep as you can and hold it for 10 seconds. As a variation I like to drop to the floor and do as many push-ups whilst holding my breath until I am gasping to take a breath again. Repeat this as many times as you like but I find that my whole system is well oxygenated after just one set and I am pumped with energy and feeling great! I promise you will too.

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Poor oral health has been strongly linked to heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, certain diseases such as diabetes can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe. But that’s only part of the story. What most people don’t realise is that oral health is not just about protecting your teeth and gums, it is about protecting an important immune function performed by your saliva. I know this topic might be a little gross but it is important, which is why it made the top 6 life hacks in our 4-5-6 system for daily living.

I will share a simple preventative technique that will impact your health in a profound way, make you more attractive and boost your resistance to disease. It is an ultimate preventative super weapon. And it is quick, easy and cheap.

But first, the science.

Saliva is also one of your body’s main defences against bacteria and viruses. It contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens, such as the common cold and even HIV. It also contains proteins called histatins, which inhibit the growth of candida. When these proteins are weakened by poor oral health and some illnesses, candida can grow out of control.

Saliva is also good for your sex life because research shows that healthy saliva has testosterone in it, which explains why kissing has been shown to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. It stands to reason that if you have poor oral health, you will reduce your libido and be less attractive, not just on the sensory level (bad breath) but on the hormonal level.

Inflammation, Heart Disease & Alzheimer’s

Oral inflammation due to bacteria (gingivitis) plays a role in clogged arteries and blood clots. Bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries of the heart and brain. It enters the bloodstream through bleeding gums. This inflammation causes the development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack, stroke and the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which leads to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Most people are taught the three main protocols to good oral hygiene.

  1. Avoid sugar
  2. Floss your teeth at night
  3. Brush teeth morning and night

But there is a 4th protocol which is super effective at preventing the inflammatory response of poor mouth hygiene. It will protect your heart and your brain, which seem to be the most susceptible to inflammation.

Oil Pulling

This protocol has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine well before we had tooth paste and tooth brushes. The following is what you should do morning just before you perform the 4 morning rituals shared in previous articles.

  • Brush teeth and tongue in the usual way
  • Use a table spoon of coconut oil and sesame oil
  • Put one drop of essential oils clove and oregano or thyme
  • Swish the oil in your mouth for 5-20 mins. I perform this during my morning jog. It is time efficient and also forces me to breath through my nose which is much healthier than mouth breathing.
  • Do NOT swallow because the oil extracts all the bacteria and other toxins from in-between gums and teeth.
  • Spit out thoroughly, preferably in the garden. If you cannot do the garden then do not use coconut oil because it will harden in your drainage pipes. Just use sesame oil.

For a definitive guide on this protocol, please read this article by our faculty member and health researcher, Mark Bunn: Oil Pulling the Ayurvedic Way.

See Mark Bunn talk at Upgrade Your Life 2020 where he will share the definitive step-by-step system to healthy living.

Last Word

I am surprised at how many people I come across are obsessed with diet and exercise but give very little attention to oral hygiene, eye and hearing health. These three senses are so important to overall health and wellbeing. In fact, I will talk about hearing health and it’s newly-discovered link to Alzheimer’s in a future article, which will also feature a must-listen podcast I recorded in Boston with Dr Kirupa Suthakar, PhD.

Life-Hack #2: 14 Rules for Eating Properly and Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Today we focus on the life hack for healthy eating. First, we want to point out that “Eating healthy can be unhealthy”. We are not against healthy eating, but we are against an obsession with diets and labels. Your emotional wellbeing is much more important to your overall health than what you eat. Yes, food is medicine at the cellular physical level but sunshine, sleep, socialising and fulfillment is a much more potent medicine on the emotional level.

Furthermore, the focus on what to eat is a one-dimensional view of healthy eating. Eating is a process that starts with what food you buy, how you store, how you cook, when you eat, how much you eat and your mental state when you eat. The process can break down anywhere along this value chain. The process is only complete when you absorb what you eat.

The 3 Essential Tests

We live in an age where bio-metric testing is accessible. Don’t second guess what is healthy for your own unique cells. Get tested. Avocado is not healthy for everyone. Nor is kombucha or coffee or eggs or goji berries or whatever is the latest craze. Conversely, eating gluten or dairy or meat is not bad for everyone either. So please don’t buy into fad diets and health evangelists. By getting tested you will find out what foods should be avoided for your genetic type. You can do 3 tests to start with. Blood test, hair mineral analysis and gut microbiome. See a qualified health practitioner. And yes, some doctors are now also doing these tests. It is not only for naturopaths.

The following 14 eating rules provide the real answer to eating ‘properly’. They reflect the fact that our nutritional requirements change in a 24-hour cycle AND in an annual cycle of spring, summer, autumn, winter. So being paleo, keto or vegan is not really an accurate label to put on yourself. You need to live in tune to the natural cycles of the earth. This “Seasonal Living” is the single most important principle to healthy living. The seasons affect us at a physical and emotional level. We “feel” different in winter compared to summer. We want stillness and crave more comfort foods in winter; soups v’s salads. Summer is about relaxing in the sun. Autumn is about review, reflection and tacking stock of our lives. Spring is about growth. The more we mirror nature and adapt to these cycles, the healthier we will be.

When to Eat, How Much to Eat and How to Eat

1. Eat more protein in winter. We are generally less active in winter and so we need to eat less carbs. Eating more protein curbs your appetite for carbs.

2. Eat more carbs in summer. Nature produces fruits higher in sugar carbs in summer for a reason. We are more active in summer and therefore need more glucose for fuel.

3. Eat fruits and vegetables in season. Even meats and fish are seasonal.  Our body needs different nutrients at different times of the year depending on the change season, especially spring and autumn. Respect that. For example, it’s not always healthy to eat blueberries year round! Your body needs to create its own antioxidants sometimes and different antioxidants from other sources. Reliance from one source like blueberries can make your cells lazy.  Example two: Some seasons require citrus to ward off colds and flu.

4. Eat in a window of 8-12 hours preferablyduring daylight hours. You need to abstain from food the other 12-16 hours. Be careful from fasting for periods longer than this without guidance of a health practitioner because fasting can boost adrenalin and stress you out. And stress is much more harmful than not detoxing.

5. Don’t snack between meals. Allow yourself to go hungry before eating your next meal or snack. Going hungry means your body has processed the last meal. How long it takes depends on your activity level. The more active you are the quicker you will go hungry. Don’t reach for snacks simply because they are there.

6. Exercise/move before your meals. Exercise expends the glucose in your cells so they are ready to take in more glucose. If your cells are overloaded with glucose, they will store the excess as fat. In fact, I would rate this as the number one rule.

7. Eat out in sunlight/nature. The sun on your skin and eyes produces leptin cells and these are important in regulating how much you eat. They are the on/off button for your hunger.

8. Don’t eat heavy meals after the sun goes down. If you cannot sleep because you are hungry, then eat very light low-fat foods like papaya or berries.

9. If you have a stressful day and feel like you have been running on adrenalin all day, then eat more of your carbs as the last meal of the day. Make it clean, slow burning carbs from vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin and broccoli. Whilst eating more carbs at night may not be great for your waistline, it is better for your mental health because carbs will help you sleep. You should always trade sleep for any other fitness goal.

10. Do not overeat. There is a tipping point where the fuel you get from eating is cancelled out by the energy you burn in digesting your food. Overeating also taxes your organs and temporarily surges cholesterol and lipid proteins. Most arteriolosclerosis occurs after a big heavy fatty meal, especially at night.

11. You are not what you eat but rather what you digest. Eating in a relaxed state will help you absorb more nutrients. If you are stressed, ALL food becomes toxic in your body.

12. Relax before you eat. Exercise will generally put you in a relaxed state but if you are stressed you need to also meditate before you eat to switch on your ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system.

13. Don’t have intense discussions when you eat. Don’t watch TV or scroll devices while you eat. You are disrupting the connection between your sense of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. The brain sends a signal to your body to release the right enzymatic spectrum to digest the food you are eating. When you are NOT engaged with your food, you will not digest your food efficiently.

14. Rest after eating. The process of eating has not finished until the nutrients have been absorbed, so it is important that you stay relaxed and rest after a meal. That is when most of your absorption occurs.

The above is a brief summary of the most important protocols for eating hacks. Our faculty experts, Alessandra Edwards and Mark Bunnwill do a deeper dive into these and other lifestyle and nutritional hacks at Upgrade Your Life 2020.

Life-Hack #1: The Healthy Trinity

Hack #1: The Healthy Trinity: Grounding, sun gazing & deep breathing.

I cannot stress how important these three simple protocols are for your wellbeing. When practiced together they have a compounding impact not just on your physical but on your more important mental and emotional balance. They are healing at a deep level and they complement your 4 morning rituals beautifully to give you the best start and finish to the day. And they only take 1-2 minutes to perform!

(If you are new to growing community, this article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks. All our content is free and curated with genuine love, care and respect.

Ground, Gaze, Breathe (GGB)

This life hack should be practiced together, preferably within 45 minutes of sunrise and 45 minutes of sunset. I do them religiously wherever I may be in the world. In fact, I am writing this from NYC and I just returned from Central Park where I performed these trio just before my jog and meditation. It got rid of my jetlag almost instantly. The protocol provides the ultimate detox, the best antioxidant and the best elixir for your gut health.

Step 1:            Go Barefoot on Grass

Step 2:            Gaze at the Sun

Step 3:            Breath Deeply

Breathe deeply in and out through the mouth for 45 seconds whilst you look towards the sun. Don’t look directly at the sun. Take in the whole picture without focusing on anything in particular. The sun early and late in the day will not hurt your eyes, especially for only 45 seconds. Have a break of 15 seconds and then repeat 2-3 times. I also suggest you do eye exercises during the 15 second break. Simply look left, right, up, down, diagonal then round to the left and right. Don’t forget to breath normally while you are doing these eye exercises.

The combination of deep breathing, sun gazing and grounding literally drains all the negative energy and replaces it with the earth’s healing energy. This is not pseudoscience. There is a lot of research showing that:

·     Grounding or “earthing” replaces positively charged ions (bad for you) with negatively charged ions. It has a dramatic antioxidant effect.

·     Breathing deeply oxygenates your cells and detox’s the body much more than any herbal detox program. Remember that 70% of our detox is done by the lungs through the breath.

·     Bathing your eyes with sunshine boosts your energy, mood and provides a direct neuropathway through the pineal gland to your gut, where it regulates the diversity of your gut bacteria. This will boost not just the happy hormone serotonin but the all-important melatonin, which is responsible in so many functions including energy production and sleep promotion. Sleep is the ultimate superfood for body and mind.

For more detailed information on all three protocols of this healthy trinity please visit our faculty expert and health researcher Mark Bunn resources. Mark will be presenting at Upgrade Your Life 2020.

Excuse My Rant

This Hack #1 in our series is much more effective  than probiotics, prebiotic, juice fasts, herbal supplements and the like. And it is free! Something the ‘wellness industry’ will not tell you because they don’t make money from the sun, earth and breath. As Australian heart surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp recently said beautifully: 

“The Wellness industry does not care about you or your health. The only thing they want from us is our money and adoration which they take with glee. Each time we like an Instagram post….read their books or juice some vegetable, we’re lining their pockets and making very little impact on our own health.”

The wellness industry is big business…$4.2 trillion compared to a paltry $938.4 billion by big pharma. Take control of your own health and use the earths healing power to make you well. You will notice that the 4 rituals, 5 habits and the hacks I am sharing with you costs NO money. Do not outsource your health to anyone

Essential Habit #4: The Power of Posture

Habit #4 – The Power of Posture on Your Psychology
This article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks to consciously systemise your days. It will revolutionise the way you live and boost your performance, even on days where you lack motivation. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page. 

Why is Posture important?

“If eyes are the windows to the soul, then posture is a window into your emotions.” Sam Makhoul

Posture is a habit. And if your posture is not optimal it will affect your thoughts, feelings and your health. It will affect all personal and business interactions because of how others perceive you. Your clients and customers read your posture. Your children mimic your posture and mimic your body language subconsciously. What kind of posture do you want them to have? A confident one or a defeated one?

The Science

For many year’s psychologists have known that there is a feedback loop between our physiology and our psychology. How we feel is reflected in our posture and our facial expression. In turn, our posture, how we move, and our facial expression impacts how we feel. If you are in a poor emotional state, your shoulders will drop, you will look down more often, you will slouch, you will walk around like you’re tired, and you will start to feel tired. You become caught in a negative loop where your emotions drive your posture and the habit of your posture then reinforces your emotions.

You are no match for your emotions, right? Or are you? In 2010 psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap pioneered the research that demonstrated that you can reverse the way you feel by posture alone. This research merely reinforced what teachers such as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Norman Cousins have been saying for years. And it works. Changing your posture will change the way you feel, especially if it is compounded with Habit#1 in our series.

BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT, how do you reverse the habit of poor posture? A habit is very tough to break. It is one thing for researchers to prove something but another to provide the solution. NONE of the research tells us HOW to reverse the habit of being yourself (because your posture becomes who you are). Power posing proposed by Amy Cuddy in her famous TED talk has since been discredited as pseudoscience because it is not a realistic permanent solution.

Change Your Posture in TWO steps.

This article aims to provide the solution by addressing the real issue; that posture is a habit that is reinforced by muscle memory. And therefore to change your posture permanently you need to change muscle memory in a two step process designed by A Higher Branch in our Conscious Living program.

Step 1

Just like method actors in Hollywood or Bollywood, you need to develop the habit of being self-conscious. You need to constantly be aware of how you are standing, walking or expressing your movements. This self-awareness helps you to be more mindful of the circumstances or situations that cue your body to behave in a certain way. This will give you an insight into how you feel in that moment. Are you in a meeting where you feel uncertain about your competence? Are you in a social setting where you feel shy and introverted? Notice how your body is reflecting that emotion. Are you hunching? Are you shallow breathing? Are you shrinking and hoping to be invisible? Tell yourself that you are not your thoughts or emotions. You are the essence witnessing how you feel. That’s who you really are. You don’t have to do anything to change your posture at this stage. Just noticing it is enough, because the real solution comes in step 2. (For more information on “breaking the habit of being yourself”, refer to the guided meditations by Dr Joe Dispenza, whose book by the same name is a prescriptive masterpiece in noticing your thoughts).

Step 2

Step 2 is not a quick fix. Nothing in life is a quick fix – just ask David Goggins. Anyone that tells you otherwise is often trying to sell you something, 

Step 2 is all about doing exercises that build a great posture over time. This is where strength training, yoga and Pilates come in. There is no doubt that all three methods impact how we feel. The combination of breathing and movement dissipates anxiety and relieves depression. It does this by changing our body chemistry; the pharmacy of our physical. In fact, the benefits of exercise have been proven to be more effective than both Xanax and Prozac. 

But one other consequence of all three modalities is that they improve posture by strengthening the core. So, it not only changes your biology but also your psychology through your physiology. Your body starts to stand more upright. Your muscles become more toned and support you in a way that is reassuring and balanced. You will look taller, and therefore feel and look more confident.

So, changing your physiology and the habit of your posture starts with exercise that strengthen the core and leads to an effortless posture. A good posture is NOT one that is forced. It is not in power posing or in a military-style stiff, upright way with head up, shoulders back. A good posture should never be tiring to maintain.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss exercises that strengthen the core and correct the posture effortlessly, but I will say this: Yoga and Pilates in particular strengthen the core, lengthen the spine, makes you feel open, light and effortless. My new friend and yogini, Rebecca Jarvis described the importance of this on the spine as follows:  

“Posture is the framework that allows for energy or life-force to flow through the body.  The spine has an innate intelligence and energy that is inhibited when we’re tense and contracted.  We need the spine to be lengthened, to create an optimal flow of energy, and to serve as an open channel for our breathing.”

Rebecca recommends the following sequence of yoga moves for office workers who are sitting all day. It is a sequence designed by Elena Bower. Click here.

My mobility coach and good friend, Phong Thach, put it this way: “your best posture is in your next movement”. In other words, we need to keep moving. Sitting all day is the enemy of a good posture, no matter how upright you sit. 

As a strength trainer he recommends you take a few minutes twice a day to do exercises such as push-ups, lunges and holding the plank – all simple, can be done anywhere and designed to strengthen the core. And if you make it to the gym, he also recommends pull ups and anything that works the back muscles.  You need to train your core and your back muscles to a point where it is built into your muscle memory. 

The habit of a good posture is too important to ignore because it impacts so much of your psychology. And this is why it is in the top 5 habits of our Conscious Living series.