Every day we deal with stress, one way or another, whether it’s getting the kids ready for school on time in the morning, finding ourselves caught in traffic jams, or dealing with anything work-related. Over the past few years, I have experimented with four different types of breathing that I find very helpful in calming me down, making me feel more relaxed, and preparing me for the next task of the day.

Just taking a five-minute break or less to do a breathing exercise every day can make a big difference over time. The following breathing exercises have been referenced by numerous professionals.

  • Box breathing: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and count for 4 seconds before breathing in again. You can increase the number of seconds as you become more skilled, but always practice in moderation. And just a few minutes (up to 5 minutes) at a time is plenty.
  • Alternate nostril breathing: Using the thumb and ring finger of your right hand and being in a comfortable sitting position, put your thumb on your right nostril to close it and exhale through the left nostril all the way. Then breathe in through the left nostril, close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Breathe in through the right nostril, close the right nostril with the thumb again and breathe out through the left nostril. Repeat this breathing pattern for just a few minutes at a time. I was first introduced to this technique by meditation teacher Emily Fletcher and it is another great way to re-energize yourself.
  • Breathing exercise paired with visualization: I read about this breathing exercise in a book titled The Fourfold Path to Healing, by Dr. Thomas Cowan, Sally Fallon, et al., and find the visualization very relaxing. Picture yourself by the seashore and as a wave comes crashing at your feet, breathe out. Pause for a few seconds, then as a new wave forms in the distance, take a deep breath in. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out as the new wave reaches your feet again. Repeat this breathing exercise a few times.
  • Vagal nerve stimulating breathing exercise: This exercise (which I love to do every day) is well described by neurologist Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein in a Bulletproof podcast. Begin by sitting comfortably without crossing your arms or legs. Place the tip of your tongue right between your palate and the upper teeth. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose. Hold the breath for 7 seconds. Breathe out through the mouth for 8 seconds, making a “whoosh” sound as you still have your tongue placed between your palate and upper teeth. Repeat 4 times only, twice a day.

When doing these breathing exercises, always make sure you keep a straight spine with your chin slightly tucked in to lengthen the back of your neck. This position gives the room for your lungs to fully expand when you breathe in, which isn’t possible if we are hunched over. Also make sure your breathing begins in the belly; this will help circumvent the typical shallow chest-breathing pattern we experience when we get stressed out. And that’s it! Four easy breathing exercises that can make a world of difference!

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With whatever healthy new habits you want to implement into your life, a health coach is there to stand by you every step of the way. Who doesn’t want to feel better on a daily basis? Changes are not always easy to stick to over time. It is really important to use strategies to build new habits to clean up our diet, exercise more optimally, have better sleep hygiene, and learn how to manage the stress in our lives. A health coach is there to offer ongoing support and help you refine those strategies.

A primal health coach is going to focus on these goals, with general recommendations based on the ancestral health approach, which the primal lifestyle and paleo lifestyle embrace. This means to mimic the way our ancestors lived, as reasonably as possible, within our modern world boundaries.

To explain this concept in another way, it means that we want to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, get enough exercise and low-intensity movement throughout the day, get adequate sleep, and minimize stress triggers on top of learning how to better handle overall stress. We want to carve an optimal lifestyle for ourselves that works along with our ancestral roots, not against them. A primal health coach is there to help you do just that.

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Changing for the Better

Five years ago, after reading the book, Your Personal Paleo Code, by Chris Kresser, I started eating a paleo type of diet. Everything in this book made so much sense, the most logical thing to do was to start experimenting and see for myself if eating as much as possible the way our ancestors did made a big difference in the way I would feel every day. The increased amount of energy one experiences when removing foods from the traditional SAD diet is outstanding. All the more that I found out last year (thanks to 23andMe and DNAfit) that I have a high predisposition for celiac disease as well as a high carbohydrate sensitivity. This explains why removing gluten (among other things) from my diet gave me an amount of energy I never felt before. There is no coming back once we start eating that way and feeling better all around no matter what our age. When I happen to mention to people that I am about to turn fifty, no one believes me. And I want to share this message that we can all experience better health on a daily basis. Food is what fuels our bodies, and just like the fuel we put in our cars, it has to be of good quality, not junk food.

Now changing the way we have been eating for years can be challenging. We can make the switch overnight, going cold turkey, or progressively dropping one unwanted food after another, and replacing it with better options. No matter what the approach, we have to understand that it is okay to have very successful days in this life-changing enterprise and days that are not perfect. That is what author Dr. Kyra Bobinet explains in her book, Well designed life, when it comes to any behavior change. She states, “As the new behavior is practiced more and more, the neural connections underlying that behavior get stronger and stronger. It is like wearing a rough footpath through repeated use, and then once established, paving that road (i.e., adding myelin to neural networks) to make it faster. Eventually there are two neural pathways that are of equal strength—the old habit and the new one—and you can imagine two highways that you could choose from. When we hit this point, the new behavior is as good an option (and equally likely to occur) as the old default behavior.” (295-6) 

Are you ready to bring in new habits to foster a wealth of vitality?

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