How to Breathe Your Way to the Corner Office
The benefits of paying closer attention to your breath are manifold, but many associate breathwork’s pay-offs solely with mindfulness and meditation. Did you know, for instance, that purposeful use of breath can be practised to increase energy levels, eliminate toxins, improve creativity and improve performance and cardiovascular health? In neglecting proper breathing, you’re likely to also be hindering your career growth.
“The way you breathe affects every system and function in your body,” says leading breathwork coach Richie Bostock, AKA The Breath Guy. “So understanding and using the breath purposefully is a major skill if you want to become a healthy, happy, high-performing individual and enhance every aspect of your life.”
Once only practised by enlightened yogis and spiritual gurus, Bostock notes that breathwork is now being embraced by Navy SEALs, elite athletes and Silicon Valley executives for its infinite benefits.
To harness the benefits of breathing in the workplace, Bostock has devised a timeline of breathing exercises to do throughout the day to improve your job performance, from the moment you wake up to right before you turn out the lights.
7 am (as soon as your alarm goes off)
As you lay in bed, put one hand on your belly and take 10 deep belly breaths through the nose, making your hand rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. Do this at a rate of 2 seconds in and 2 seconds out, this will help to wake up the body.
11 am (before an important meeting)
This technique gained popularity in the west when it was discovered that Navy SEALs used it to calm their nerves before going into battle. It’s called box breathing. The breath is broken down into four equal parts, like the sides of a square. The length of each part should be whatever feels comfortable to you, but five seconds is a good starting point.
- Start with empty lungs and breathe into your belly through your nose for a count of 5 seconds.
- Hold your breath for a count of five.
- Exhale for a count of five.
- Hold your breath for a count of five.
- Repeat this pattern for at least five minutes, or until you have felt yourself fully calm down.
1 pm (before your lunch break)
Bhastrika – or “bellows breath” – is a traditional breathwork exercise in yoga that aids many of the body’s systems and functions, including stimulating digestion. It involves taking deep breaths in, then exhaling out as much air as you can, contracting and squeezing all your abdominal muscles.
- Sit up tall and take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly and with every exhale let your belly contract inwards.
- Begin bellows breathing by inhaling deeply through the nose, expanding your belly out.
- Exhale through the nose forcefully until you can’t squeeze any more air out. Your belly will contract back toward your spine.
- Make sure the breathing comes from your diaphragm. Keep your head, neck, shoulders and chest still while your belly moves in and out.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
3 pm (to get through the afternoon slump)
You can pre-empt the post-lunch drain and natural dip in melatonin with a technique called the Energiser Bunny. The best thing about it is it’ll save you the money and the potential disruption to your sleep cycle that comes with an afternoon coffee. This breath can be done seated or standing.
- Exhale out completely.
- Take three quick and powerful inhales through the nose, progressively filling up your lungs. The length of the inhales should be equal and on your final inhale your lungs should be completely full.
- Exhale out with a big sigh through the mouth.
- That completes one breath cycle. Aim for 36 breath cycles per minute, so each breath takes a little under two seconds to complete.
- Repeat this pattern for 1-2 minutes and notice the difference in how you feel.
This breath may make you start to feel a little light-headed, but that’s completely natural so don’t stress. Everything will return back to a normal (though much more energised) state within a matter of seconds after finishing.
10 pm (before you go to sleep)
This breath can calm down the nervous system when it’s in action mode, something needed in order to get a restful night of sleep.
Despite the recommended timing, though, I like to call this technique “5 pm Breathing”, because 5 pm is supposed to be that joyous moment we can knock off work, relax and let our hair down.
- Start in a seated or lying position.
- Put one or both hands over your belly button so that you can feel the movement of your abdomen.
- Inhale for four seconds through your nose and feel your hands rise outwards by a few centimetres.
- Exhale for six seconds through your nose and feel your hands fall inwards by a few centimetres. There’s no need to empty your lungs all the way, just exhale slowly until your lungs feel comfortably empty.
- Hold your breath for two seconds.
- That’s one breath cycle. Repeat at least ten times, or until you have reached your desired state of relaxation.
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