Breath control

Think of your breathing as either water, whiskey or coffee. Water breath is balancing, always a good choice, day or night; and it can be used freely without a worry. Whiskey breath is down-regulating, relieves stress, and can help put you to sleep. Coffee breath is up-regulating, wakes you up, and prepares your body for activity and exercise.

Your breathing pattern is defined primarily by your rate of breathing, meaning how fast or how slowly you breathe. As you’re reading this now, you’re probably breathing about 8-15 breaths per minute. This slightly-elevated breathing pattern is the “normal” in today’s busy world. You can affect your breath and your nervous system response in a matter of minutes simply by changing your breathing rate.

CALM: Water Breath / Balanced Breathing: 4-6 breaths per minute:

When you breathe 4-6 breaths per minute, it has an adaptogenic effect on your nervous system. If you’re up, it will bring you down; if you’re down, it will bring you up. You can practice Water Breath standing, seated, lying down, and even while driving. Like drinking a glass of water, it’s always safe, always appropriate, and always healthful.

• Practice any time, day or night

• Use before high-stress meetings or presentations

• Use if you’re feeling sluggish midday

• Use during all yoga practices and low-intensity exercise

CALMER: Whiskey Breath / Down-Regulating Breath:

< 4 breaths per minute

When you reduce your breath below 4 breaths per minutes, it triggers a strong parasympathetic (rest and digest nervous system response, reduces your heart rate, reduces activity in skeletal muscles, and improves digestion. This type of breathing is great after meals, in the evening, and most-commonly, right before bed. This practice should be done seated or lying down, and never while driving or doing anything standing or active. It’s extremely common for students to fall asleep while using Whiskey Breath, so it should be used with care, only when appropriate.

• Use primarily before bed

• Can be used (with care) to reduce intense stress or anxiety

• After eating, this breathing pattern can aid in digestion

WAKE-UP: Coffee Breath / Up-Regulating: > 20 breaths per minute:

When you breathe at the rate of 20 breaths per minute or more, it stimulates your sympathetic nervous system which is ideal before exercise, before busy or task- related work, and also in the morning. Rapid breathing reduces CO2 in the bloodstream which leads to constriction of your breathing passageways and veins, so it should be practiced briefly, with care, and only at appropriate times. Never practice while driving.

  • Use first thing in the morning

  • Use just before yoga or exercise


WARNING: breathing practices should never be done while swimming or bathing. These are dry-land practices only. Under no circumstances should you submerge in ice or water.

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