I wrote an article a few weeks back featuring calming breathing techniques, such as the box breath, which allows the practitioner to calm their nerves during stressful situations; this week I’ll feature one of my favorite and proven exercises which help to invigorate and replenish one’s energy levels. Isn’t it such a wonderful thing—to have the skills necessary to slow-down or power-up available to/for you at any given time?!
Some of us, like yours truly, are simply not morning people; some are naturally those fabled “early birds that get the warm” but then crash in the afternoon; others pick-up steam throughout the day and then have their vitality plummet as the twilight hours approach. Whenever it is that you may run out of steam—it’s always a game-changer (in regards to the trajectory of your day)—to be able to muster a jolt of balanced energy!
How exactly does breathing deeply give you energy? It all starts by releasing your endorphins: ‘which are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system’. The body relaxes as the endorphins are released; you begin to feel more comfortable, more balanced and stimulated. As you breathe deeply and release endorphins, your energy and vitality levels naturally increase. The deeper it is that you breathe, the more it is that you increase your energy levels, allowing fresh nutrients and oxygen to be distributed to your cells; all of this assists the organs and brain to function at an optimal level!
One of the surefire breathing techniques for heightened energy levels is the Wim Hof Method. Wim Hof is quite the impressive human being! Who is Mr. Hof exactly? According to his own site, wimhofmethod.com, ‘Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof got his nickname ‘The Iceman’ by breaking a number of records related to cold exposure including: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot, and standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than 112 minutes.’ Let’s be honest…that’s all really, really impressive! I’d probably try out whatever this dude is selling! So, how does one practice the Wim Hof Method?
When asked about “why we breathe” Wim Hof replied,
“Regulated by the autonomic nervous system, inhaling oxygen is an unconscious process. Fortunately it’s an unconscious praxis, otherwise we simply wouldn’t have a break, as we’d have to deal with it incessantly. The amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing, influences the amount of energy that is released into our body cells. On a molecular level, this progresses via various chemical and physiological processes. Breathing is the easiest and most instrumental part of the autonomic nervous system to control and navigate. In fact, the way you breathe strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body. Throughout the years, Wim Hof has developed special breathing exertions that keep his body in optimal condition and in complete control in the most extreme conditions. The breathing technique is first and foremost premised on inhaling deeply and exhaling without any use of force!’
There are only four simple steps to Wim Hof’s breathing method; Hof recommends practicing the exercise on an empty stomach, and disclaims that, ‘WHM breathing can affect motor control and, in rare cases, lead to loss of consciousness. Always sit or lie down before practicing the techniques. Never practice while piloting a vehicle, or in or near bodies of water.’
How does one practice the WHM? I’ll share his word-for-word instructions straight from his site, so that there are no losses in translation:
Step 1: Get Comfortable
Assume a meditation posture: sitting, lying down — whichever is most comfortable for you. Make sure you can expand your lungs freely without feeling any constriction.
Step 2: 30-40 Deep Breaths
Close your eyes and try to clear your mind. Be conscious of your breath, and try to fully connect with it. Inhale deeply through the nose or mouth, and exhale unforced through the mouth. Fully inhale through the belly, then chest and then let go unforced. Repeat this 30 to 40 times in short, powerful bursts. You may experience light-headedness, and tingling sensations in your fingers and feet. These side effects are completely harmless.
Step 3: The Hold
After the last exhalation, inhale one final time, as deeply as you can. Then let the air out and stop breathing. Hold until you feel the urge to breathe again.
Step 4: Recovery Breath
When you feel the urge to breathe again, draw one big breath to fill your lungs. Feel your belly and chest expanding. When you are at full capacity, hold the breath for around 15 seconds, then let go. That completes round number one. This cycle can be repeated 3-4 times without interval. After having completed the breathing exercise, take your time to bask in the bliss. This calm state is highly conducive to meditation — don’t hesitate to combine the two.
Deep breaths = deep energy; but be sure to speak to your physician first to see if these sorts of energizing breaths are good for you; there are certainly some illnesses such as vertigo which would make it counterproductive for one to practice them!
Banner Image: Deep relaxation. Image Credit – Silvia