“If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything.” - Miyamoto Musashi. Sometimes the key to alleviating stress, reducing anxiety and even advancing our physical performance lies in the simplest things. The keys lay there in wait once you master these simple things to there fullest. Much like the quote starting out this post expresses. Once you have mastered that simple thing, the path to mastery of all things will be seen. There is nothing simpler and no better place to start this journey of self-mastery, than with the breath.
When we are born into this world, the first thing we learn is to breathe. We breathe and we cry and we scream. This makes us begin to learn some of the true powers of the breath right from the start. Unfortunately from that moment on we don't typically continue to learn the full potential of the breath.
We get thrown in to the hustle and bustle of the busy world we live in. Content from television, radio, social media and more, bombard our minds to the point of stress and anxiety. This is a state in which we take the breath for granted. We treat it as something that just happens, an automation of sorts. When it could be one of the keys to our salvation.
There has been mounting scientific evidence of the benefits of breathing exercises, proving what ancient cultures and religions have have known for thousands of years. This evidence lies in many areas and through various studies which I will explain in detail. There is no better place to start than with the "Dutch-Daredevil" the "Ice Man" Wim Hof.
Wim Hof has found the keys to self-mastery and master of the body itself through the breath and the cold. He has taken these keys and fine tuned them into a method that has been proven to increase O2 levels in the body, making you more alkaline. As well as improving immune response, increase physical performance and endurance, among other physical phenomena like increasing the immune response to attack E.coli endotoxin that was voluntarily injected into his body. Because of this fined tuned method, Wim Hof holds 26 World Records, including the "Longest Ice Bath" at 1 hour 52 minutes and 42 seconds!
Beyond the methods of Wim Hof and the benefits to those techniques, diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing, has been shown to reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress. This is one of the main reasons a lot of athletes, fitness trainers and enthusiasts, including myself, do a deep breathing exercise before training.
So, breathing can do great things for you physically. Is that all there is to this simple self-mastery tool? With the growing number of studies that show breathing techniques not only improve physical health, like I went over with the Wim Hof Method, but mental health as well. I would say that answer is no way!
Slow breathing exercises have been shown to induce tranquility by effecting neurons responsible for generating arousal throughout the brain. This is something that has been practiced in Yoga and Meditation for thousands of years, now being backed by modern scientific research!
The last benefit from breathing may be the most important in today's age. That is the benefit of stress relief. As I mentioned earlier, the society that we live in today, is a fast paced concrete jungle. It can be very easy to find ourselves worked up and stressed out with everything we have going on and are exposed to in out day-to-day lives. The answer? To simply take time to breathe.
The next time you find yourself worked up because of a deadline at work, a test you have at school, someone cuts you off in traffic, or just because you have to many things going on. Take the path to reducing your stress and bettering your health in its simplest form. By returning to what you first learned after birth, the breath. Learn that path broadly and see it in everything else you do.