“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ? Amit Ray
Imagine if you could handle stress like a Navy Seal. You could take on the world a whole lot better, right?
Change your breathing, change your life.
I remember the words from David Goggins, a former Navy Seal and best-selling author of Can’t Hurt Me.
“Slow your heart rate down.”
It was his self-talk when he was under stress and he reminded himself to focus on his breathing to slow down his heart rate.
I wanted to learn how to practice how to breathe like a Navy Seal to slow my heart rate down, and I found it.
To say focused and calm, you can learn how to breathe like a Navy Seal with two simple techniques:
- Box Breathing
- Tactical Breathing
These two methods will help you breathe like a Navy Seal to calm your body and create an alert, focused state of mind, in stressful situations.
Breathing really is a skill, so let’s walk through each technique so that you can practice your breathing skills like a Navy Seal…
Technique #1 – Box Breathing
Mark Divine, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and founder of SEALFIT, named his technique Box Breathing because of the 4-sided pattern.
The goal of the exercise is to make you grounded, very alert, and ready for action.
Here’s how to practice Box Breathing:
- Expel all the air from your chest, then, with empty lungs, count to 4.
- Breathe in through your nose smoothly counting to 4.
- Hold that breath to a count of 4. (Don’t clamp down and create back pressure. Instead, keep an expansive and open feeling.)
- Exhale that breath through your nose smoothly to a count of 4.
- Repeat the steps.
It’s a 4-4-4-4 ratio.
You can imagine drawing a box with your mind as you practice the technique, because of the 4 sides.
As you get better at Box Breathing, you can up your up your count to 5-5-5-5 and so on.
Mark suggests doing Box Breathing a minimum of 5 minutes, and no more than 20 minutes.
And he recommends doing dedicated practice of 10-20 minutes a day of Box Breathing, then do a few 1- or 2-minute “spot drills” during the day, when you get the opportunity.
A key tip is to do Box Breathing daily until your nervous system gets re-wired to the slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing patterns.
You can learn more about Box Breathing in the book Kokoro Yoga: Maximize Your Human Potential and Develop the Spirit of a Warrior—the SEALfit Way, by Mark Divine and Catherine Divine.
Technique #2 – Tactical Breathing
This is a very simple breathing technique that you can do anywhere.
Here is how to practice Tactical Breathing, according to Mark Divine:
- Breathe in through your nose, counting to 4.
- Breathe out through your nose counting to 4
It’s a simple, but effective way to manage and maintain a calm and focused mind.
Imagine using it during your next stressful presentation or in a meeting where the stakes are high, or you are stuck in traffic and your heart is racing.
“Tactical breathing is used when the operator faces stressful situations like combat.
Warriors from every culture have used this technique throughout the centuries to maintain a calm and focused mind.”
Why Practice 2 Different Breathing Techniques?
A key difference between Box Breathing and Tactical Breathing, is that Box Breathing includes a breath hold after the inhale and after the exhale.
This breath hold makes a key difference in terms of changing your default breathing patterns over time.
While Tactical Breathing is a quick and easy way to slow your heart rate down and regain a calm mind, Box Breathing will permanently alter your unconscious breathing patterns, if you practice it daily.
In other words, you will change your default breathing in a way to achieve better stress management, enhanced mental and emotional awareness and improved mental control.
Imagine a calm, cool, and collected you, James Bond style, in any situation.
5 to 7 Full Breaths Per Minute
According to Mark, most people breathe 16 to 20 shallow breaths per minute.
With Box Breathing, you slow this down to 5 to 7 full breaths per minute.
Mark averages 4-6 breaths per minute, when he’s not paying attention, because he retrained his nervous system.
In the book, Kokoro Yoga, Mark shares the idea that slowing your breathing down could lengthen your life span.
“The yoga masters believed that the human life span was determined by the number of breaths taken.
According to them, slowing your breathing down would lengthen your life span.
I don’t know about you, but I am in–at 4 breaths per minute versus 16, I should live 4 times as long!
At any rate, my experience is that slowing your breathing rate down is very healthy and I think you will find this to be true for yourself as well.”
The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System
According to Dr. Scott Symington, author of Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings, your Autonomic Nervous System has two systems to know about: the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
You can use mindful breathing techniques to influence your Parasympathetic Nervous System help you slow things down, like your heart rate.
Dr. Symington says:
“The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which controls heart rate, respiration, and other bodily functions, has two main branches – Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS).
Think of the SNS as a physiological accelerator, stimulating the fight-or-flight response – preparing your body to respond to some perceived threat.
When you’re chronically stressed, the SNS is overly active and perpetually engaged.
The PSNS acts as the body’s braking system – responsible for calming the body (decreasing heart rate, slowing respiration, reducing cortisol levels, etc.).
Relaxation techniques like mindful breathing are effective in engaging the PSNS, the body’s braking system.”
Research Says How We Breathe Affects How We Think and Feel
Of course, you can use your common sense and notice how your breathing affects how you think and how you feel.
But the good news is that science is also on your side and supports the idea that how you breathe impacts your thinking and feeling.
You are sending signals to your nervous system based on how you breathe.
Breathing from your belly is where relaxed breathing happens.
Breathing from your upper chest with shallow breaths is what anxious and on edge feels like.
In the article, How We Breathe Could Also Affect How We Think And Feel, Peter Dockrill shares insights on the latest research on breathing:
“Breathing doesn’t just fill our lungs with oxygen and help us stay alive, it could also affect the way we think and feel, according to a new study.
Researchers have discovered that the rhythm of our breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain, and the effect is slightly different depending on if we use our mouth or nose to breathe, and if we’re inhaling or exhaling.”
Call to Action
- Practice 5-20 minutes of Box Breathing each day to retrain your nervous system and default breathing patterns
- Remind yourself to “Slow your heart rate down”
- Remember the mantra: “Change your breathing, change your life.”
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