Top 5 Breathing Exercises for Optimal Health

Breathing Technique GQ 19Dec17 istock b

You breathe more than you do anything else in life…other than read my tweets.

But most people don’t know how to properly breathe.

In fact, humans are probably the worst breathers in the animal kingdom.

Improper breathing, like eating the wrong foods, has some devastating consequences. 

And no matter how healthy you’re eating, you can offset many of the benefits if you breathe improperly.

In this article below, Brian Mackenzie writes up why he thinks breathing is important and 5 exercises to help restore your health. Here it is.


The foundation of breathing is understanding the difference between nose and mouth breathing. Both have a place. Co2 is the metabolic stress messenger and is easily trainable through breath. These exercises surround training co2 tolerance and increasing it.

Blood pressure is by far the most medicated problem globally. Acid reflux and digestive issues are in the top 10, and Anxiety is now the number one reported mental disorder. This means we have no idea how to handle stress in domestication. Dr Andras Sikter has written an incredible theory on the Disease of Civilization, and I encourage you to look into his work and many others. 

Stress physiology does not differentiate whether fact or fiction. Adrenaline and the response to adrenaline sit at the heart (pun intended) of our cult(ure) with blood pressure and overthinking about a future we can not predict due to a past we wont let go of. Stressed out with nowhere to go. We need tools, but more importantly we need tools that teach us why we feel the way we do, NOT to change how we feel. There is a time and place for the former. 

Sleep is an interesting thing, and I’m of the mindset and experience that it is about how we manage our day more than anything; see BP and anxiety. Albeit, learning how to shift down (down regulate) is a critical skill since most of us are enamored with creating the perfect sleep environment instead of addressing the lifestyle we live during the day. 

Health is an idea, at its root is awareness, the most powerful thing we have. Health is not a thing, and so once one can master techniques and rhythms that person is free to explore. Yet the hardest thing in any breath practice to do is to simply be aware of of your breathing. First sit with it, or lie with it. Then start paying attention to it in everything you do. 

Here are 5 exercises to try for specific issues:

  1. Blood Pressure issues: 1/2 – 3 count inhale / pause//hold / 6 count exhale. Repeat 5min – 20min Max. Nasal breathing only. 
  2. Autoimmune issues: 1/1/2/1 – starting at 3 count inhale /3 count hold / 6 count exhale / 3 count pause. Increasing rhythm until it’s just outside comfortable. Repeat 5 min – 20min max. Nasal breathing only. 
  3. Movement practices (exercise: ALL apply here): Breathing Gears – Gear 1 = nasal only 1/1 ratio (ideally 1-3 count / 1-3 count), Gear 2 = power nasal in / relaxed nasal out Gear 3 = power nasal in / power nasal out, Gear 4 = power nasal in / mouth out, Gear 5 = mouth in / mouth out. If you are new to this, Gears 1-2 only for 6 weeks.
  4. Anxiety: 1/1 rhythm for 5-10min 2x per day. Start with 3 count in / 3 count out, and build from there. Once you can get 10min of 8/8, progressing to 8/8/8 and even 8/8/8/8 and onward to 8/8/16/8. Nasal only breathing. 
  5. Sleep & Blood Pressure (<2hrs before bed): CO2 Tables Modified – 10 breaths slow, hold breath on inhale until strong urge to exhale, 9 breaths, hold, 8 breaths, hold, 7 breaths, hold, 6 breaths, hold, 5 breaths, hold, 4 breaths, hold, 4 breaths, hold. Done. Nasal only breathing

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