Ashford Clinic Blog
Boost your metabolism, proper breathing leads the way
Boosting your metabolism doesn’t come only from engaging in strenuous exercise. You can improve metabolism and gain some overall health benefits anytime, by learning better habits of breathing.
How better breathing can boost metabolism
The oxygen in the air you breathe enters the blood stream through the lungs. By mindfully adding efficiency to your breathing, your help our cells receive more oxygen, and produce more energy; this helps increase your metabolism. Proper nose breathing helps lower your blood pressure, which improves metabolism and bolsters overall health. One great thing about better breathing is that you can practice it wherever you are: at the breakfast or dinner table; behind the wheel in your morning or evening traffic traffic jam, or relaxing on the couch at the end of the day.
Some basics of proper breathing
First, apply some patience and discipline to the work of proper breathing. Give yourself time to learn and cement the breathing habits that build lung capacity and help you achieve more efficient metabolism. It’s important to remember that goal is regular practice, not perfect technique from the first try forward. You can add more sophisticated and specific methods as you progress. To get started, think of these basic principles with every breath:
- Inhale through the nose, drawing breath into the bottom of your lungs with the muscles of the diaphragm.
- Make sure your shoulders are in a low, relaxed position.
- Learn to exhale slowly and deliberately, taking about twice as long to breathe out as to breathe in. This empties your lungs more completely, without straining.
- Deeper exhalation also helps to prevent mixing unexhaled carbon dioxide-laden air with the next breath.
Breath retention to increase lung capacity
This breath retaining method is based on the Kumbhaka Pranayama yoga technique. It can help increase your oxygen intake, expand your lung capacity, stretch the intercostal muscles of your rib cage and improve your metabolism. The goal is to retain air in your lungs for 10 to 20 seconds, to allow more oxygen transfer from lungs to red blood cells. Here’s how:
- Sit up straight, and inhale through your nose for about five seconds.
- Hold your breath calmly, without straining, for five to eight seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.
- Begin with just a few repetitions, to avoid dizziness, or any feeling of urgency as you hold in the air. Over time, as you grow accustomed to retaining breath, you can make small increases in the amount of time it takes for each full breath cycle.
This method is based on a yoga technique called Dirga Pranayama. It offers three benefits: first, it helps you be more aware of how it feels to fill your lungs more completely with air, and to exhale completely as well. Second, it helps relax your mind and body. Third, it may help to increase oxygen intake as you begin to habitually breathe more deeply.
These are the steps:
- Inhale deeply through your nose, using your diaphragm. Mentally direct the breath to the bottom third of your lungs.
- Pause briefly, and then inhale more air through the nose to fill the ribcage.
- Take another pause, and then sip in a bit more air through the nose, to fill the lungs all the way to the collar bone. Remember to avoid using the muscles around the ribs, instead ‘belly breathing’ with the abdominal muscles. If you find yourself overfilling your lungs, or gulping the last bit of breath, try calmly taking in a little less air in each of the first two stages.
- Finally, reverse the process as you exhale, releasing air from your upper chest, then the middle/ribcage area, and last the lower lung.
Practice this for five minutes in the morning and before bedtime. It takes about a month of mindful repetition to turn this practice into habit, but the mental benefit and the metabolic boost are worth the time and concentration you invest.