By Emma Shearman of Sisuu
The one constant in life, is change. Nothing is certain and everything is always evolving. Sometimes this can feel overwhelming, ungrounding and our response is fearful, rather than curious or excited. During my years of learning to surf, free dive and constantly (getting put out) of my comfort zone - the key tool that I came back to was my breath. Using it to build energy, create clarity and conquer fears.
So much so that I became increasingly more intrigued and astounded by the power of our breathing patterns. I began consuming books, podcasts, workshops & courses in my free time, and sharing this knowledge with friends and family. I realised that I was so passionate about this practice, and saw how impactful it was, that I trained to and became a performance breath practitioner, and I have since worked with big wave surfers, athletes, directors and brands including Patagonia, Fedex and PWC - teaching many them how to use the power of their own breath, to navigate fear and challenges.
I have always loved the quote “Fear is just excitement without the breath” by Robert Heller. As when you become aware of your breath, find rhythm or build courage, the hard things, feel more achievable, and manageable.
Why is this?
How we breathe affects us at a cellular level - physically, psychologically and mentally. Research shows changing the way we breathe can influence weight, athletic performance, allergies, asthma, snoring, mood, stress, focus and mindset. In many Eastern cultures and religions, conscious breathing forms the foundation of practices and beliefs, and has done so for centuries.
Our bodies were designed to breathe through the nose. Again, Eastern cultures teach their children from a young age to sleep with their mouth closed. Yet half of us are chronic mouth breathers, a style of breathing that increases the synthetic response of our nervous system and our energy output. By breathing in and out of the nose, we not only filter the air, but it helps us take fuller deeper breaths and allows us to absorb up to 20% more oxygen.
I like to think of ocean swimming when explaining the effects of mouth breathing or shallow breathing. Either you can take a bunch of very short, fast, laboured strokes, and you'll eventually get to the beach. It's going to take a little longer, and you’ll pull up puffed, but you'll get there. Or you could take a series of fluid and extended strokes, and get there so much more enjoyably and efficiently.
So what to do when you feel fearful or stressed?
Come back to your breath.
Focus on long exhales, as they will signal to the heart and body to calm down - almost instantly. Every time you breathe in, channel the breath to a spot where you feel tension, pain, fear or anxiety. Imagine the oxygen going to that specific area and dissolving the tension or fear. When you breathe out, imagine that
tension being exhaled as a black cloud of breath that dissolves in front of you. Notice the shift and carve out time for this simple but powerful practice.
It requires no batteries, Wi-Fi, headgear, or smartphones. It costs nothing, takes little time and effort. It’s a technique our ancestors have been perfecting with only their lips, noses, and lungs for thousands of years.
Tips and takeaways:
- Focus on nasal breathing as much as you can. Try to implement it in your everyday life, fitness and sleeping routines. For the brave, there is even mouth tape that will help you to keep your mouth closed during the night.
- Practice deep slow belly breathing. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage. Breathe in slowly through the nose so your stomach expands against your hand. The hand on your chest should not move. Slowly exhale through the nose or pursed lips and feel the belly move down to its original position.
- Practice Box Breathing to calm the mind - Take an inhale for 4 seconds, hold on the inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 second and then hold on the exhale for 4 seconds - Repeat for 2 + mins
Founded by XPT Performance Breath Coach, Emma Shearman, SISUU is a destination to experience the incredible power of breath. Being an avid surfer, and freediver, Emma can teach you or your team just how revolutionary breathwork can be for your health, mindset and performance.