Episode 86: Breathwork Made Simple with Shivani Gupta

Shivani Gupta

Welcome to the AskShivani podcast, I'm really excited to talk to you about something that seems to have taken on the trend a little bit. But in fact, it's been around for a very long time. And I've got so excited about it that I am in the process of getting accredited in this particular space, space. And today, we're going to speak about something so simple yet so profound, and that is breathwork.

So, let's talk a little bit about what breathwork is. Let’s start off with the basics and then kind of layer that. So, let's start off with the foundations as we do in a house and then build the different stories up, so to speak.

So, what is really breathwork - the first thing about breathwork to know is it's literally how to bring oxygen or oxygenate your body, so that you can actually thrive and be able to cope with a lot of different things. And when you're really physically or when you're emotionally stressed, one of the things that happens is it affects our breath. So, when you get really stressed, one of the things that happens is that our breathing gets very shallow. And we tend to breathe in the upper part of our body. And we forget to take that breath really deeply into our abdomen, to allow that to release it. And there's a lot of different techniques, and I'm going to share a couple of them with you. And to really demystify this whole thing, because it yes, there's some amazing people. And yes, there's a lot of science behind it. But I'm a big one. But as long as it's evidence based data that we're doing something, and people have done a lot of research on it, well, then let's just distill it and get the top two or three tips on it, and be able to apply that into our lives in, you know, 30 seconds or a couple of minutes a day, because there's a whole heap of other things that you want to be able to do as well.

So, let's talk about this notion that there's, you know, breathwork is not new. So, a lot of people are like, oh, you know, there's this breathwork workshop that we did, or I've got this breathwork, coach, etc. But it's not new. In fact, it's been when you take it to its roots, it's been going around for 1000s of years. And I guess yoga, which has been again around for 1000s of years, was probably the first place where it started, particularly nostril breathing, which I'll speak to you about, but also being able to take deep breaths in and out through certain postures, and being able to hold certain postures as well. And the basic idea of it, then when you look at the research behind the yoga was really to help release toxins and stress. And that when that happens, you would automatically then start to nourish your mind and your body as well. There's a lot of research that also talks about some of the benefits of breathwork. So, for example, it can have a really positive impact on your central nervous system. If you feel stressed. Again, as your breath gets really fast and shallow, you know, having some really simple techniques where you can then put oxygenated and put oxygen into your bloodstream. And then one of the things that happens is when your brain tells your body that there is a threat, your body responds and either fight or flight or freeze as we now speak about those three F's. But one of the things is when you slow your breath down, and you purposefully start to breathe more deeply, what you're doing, you're sending signals into your brain that everything is okay, and everything will be fine. And then this fight or flight or freeze response that we're not might normally have starts to decrease. And what you can do is when then your body starts to function again. And these are really important things. And sometimes, you know, we're just crossing the road and it looks like a car's not going to stop, right, and it looks, it feels like, it's going to hit us all our stress response is going to be very high there. And we probably in that stage want to flight right, we want to kind of make a run for it. So, we don't get hit by the car.

You know, there may be times you're having a conversation with a family and that conversation gets a bit heated, because people have got different viewpoints. And so, you might want to continue to fight that argument and do that. And you might want to fight now I'm not suggesting you still wouldn't run away, and you would just stay on the road breathing, or you wouldn't have your viewpoint come out in terms of your family, and not give your viewpoint. But it's what happens to our breath. And it's the amount of stress that we're feeling as we are doing that. So, one of the things that we want to do is to be able to decrease that whenever we can remember to do it. And to be able to make that happen. So just want to share with you two or three different techniques. And these techniques are used, and I find them really useful. You might have others you might also want to google it and have a look. You may have a breathwork teacher around and shortly as they get accredited, I'll be able to share some more things with you around this notion of breath work, and just the impact that it also has on your wellness, particularly a mental wellness for me.

So, let's talk about the first thing is really deep abdominal breathing. So, most of us breathe in the upper half of our body. And we again don't go into deep abdominal breathing. How do we know that we are breathing deeply? Well, if you put your hands on your belly, and you take a breath in and took a really deep, deep breath in through your nose - is your belly expanded? if your belly hasn't moved, that means that the breath is not going on all way down into the abdominals. And what you want to do, the best way to do that is to do that. And hopefully, if you're listening to this podcast while you're driving, or doing something that's pretty active, then please don't put your hands on your belly, this one might be a better one to try when you've got some safe space and you're sitting down, or you're standing up, and you're checking these breathwork techniques. So, the abdominal breathing is simply putting your hands on your abdomen and taking that deep breath.

So, I just want you to try that for a couple of times. And I'm also going to take you through, I guess, a rhythm and account. And that helps us to stay on track. And there's lots of different rhythms, if you're trying if you're really stressed out the amount of oxygen that you breathe in, maybe to the count of four, but you might then want to breathe out carbon dioxide to the count of eight, that means you're getting rid of more stuff, you've got more breaths, going out with stuff that's stored in your body than breathing in, if you want to just have balanced breathing, you might do hold for four and four out.

So, let's do where we breathe in for four, we're going to hold for four, but then we're going to exhale for the count of eight. And I'll do that with you. And if you're sitting there listening to it, you might want to do your own rhythm to it. But let me just share that with you. So, let's do that together, hands on your belly, and you go, breathe in 2-3-4, hold 2-3-4, out 2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Let's do that, again, breathe in 234, hold 234 out 2345678. And now let's do it quietly. But you'll hear me breathing through this spin.

And so just that simple technique. And again, you can do it for the count of five, or six. But again, if you want some even balanced breathing, you would do the same in hold and out. And if you're trying to get rid of a lot of stress, and you're really feeling into that heightened state, one of the things you might do is breathe in hold for the same amount, but maybe exhale for double that that we just did. We just did a 4-4-8 count.

Let's talk about another method. And this was something that came through one of my yoga teachers. And one of the things that it spoke about was this alternate nostril breathing. And it sounds really weird, particularly when you're listening to it. There's also a YouTube off that if you just go to the AskShivani YouTube, to be able to watch me do that. And but if you're just listening to it, one of the things that you need, you need your thumb, you need your index finger and you need your middle finger. So, what you would do is you would take your thumb will always lock one of the nostrils, you leave the other one open, and you put both your index and your middle finger on top of your forehead. So, it'll feel like this weird, but what you're doing is you're going to only breathe in through because your right nostril is now closed, you're going to breathe in from your left nostril. Then you're going to hold your breath. And then you can take the thumb off the nostril and cover it with your ring finger your left nostril. And now you're going to breathe out through your right nostril. And what you're going to do is you're going to breathe in again, block both sides, and then breathe out through the left nostril.

So, what you're doing is you're taking a breath in and out of one nostril, switching while you hold and then out and then in from that nostril, hold, then out and in from the other nostril and so on so forth. That exercise to do for 30 to 60 seconds a day is amazing. Again, you can Google it, you can read about it, but it's called alternative nostril breathing. It comes from a yoga practice. But essentially, that breathing technique particularly helps you encouraging the balance in your mind and body. And the way that my yoga teacher spoke about it, it talks about balancing your left side of your brain and your right side of your brain. And so, it brings a lot of calm, I find to that I have that as a daily practice for about 30 to 60 seconds. And I find that it really helps me do that.

Now there's a lot of other breath work. There's stuff that you can do breathwork in ice baths. There's breath work, you can do underwater. There's breathwork, there's so many different particular types of it.

One experience that I wanted to share with you was I had the pleasure to be in a workshop with a gentleman called Nam Baldwin. And he works with a lot of athletes around the world, world class athletes around the world, a lot of sports teams around the world to really help them understand the power of breathe. And in this particular workshop, it was actually done in a pool you never do this exercise by yourself, but we had to hold our breath and see how far we can hold our breath. But also, more importantly than, you know, winning a gold medal for how long you actually kept your breath on hold, it was more about understanding your body and understanding your stress responses. And one of the things that I recognized within myself was in I'm mentally very strong. And I'm like, Yep, I'm good. I can hold this as long as I can, and really competitive with myself around that.

But one of the things I learned on that workshop was the fact that my stress responses physically, are a lot quicker than where I am mentally. And so, one of the things what that means is, I started to think a little bit about, you know, if one of my children does something that I will want to react, and that reaction is a stress response. So, what I learned about myself through that breathwork technique under the water was actually what I think is my limit, my limits actually a little bit shorter than that my fuse is a little bit shorter than that. So, when I think I'm going into stress response, rather than wait till I've reached it, start to recognize that a little bit earlier, and then takes some deeper breaths around that.

And the last technique that I wanted to share with you was, again, that came from another teacher of mine, where you are trying to oxygenate your body really quickly, this comes in really handy, as long as you're not doing it in front of a bunch of people unless you want to do it together with your team, whether it's a live meeting face to face, or on Zoom, or whatever platform you're using, but you basically put your feet hands into a fist, and you raise your hands, as long as you've got no blood pressure issues to start, you will put your hands up above view, and then you're trying to take a deep breath in. So, you're going - don't get too hung out whether you're holding your breath in on the way in or out as long as you're doing the opposite. And you would do that out 30 times.

So, let's do that together. And if you're watching it or listening to it, hands on a fist, both arms up straight, and then you bring them down to your shoulder and breathing in. You can make as much noise. And you would do that, again, to rapidly oxygenate your brain comes in really handy and building that into your practice. So, if you're interested in breath work, please google it, please try one of those three things. If you've got any questions, my website and the podcast is AskShivani for that particular reason. And just to cover that, from a safety perspective, if any of you feel like you're hyperventilating or something happens with your heartbeat, or you have a muscle spasm, or you feel a bit dizzy, please stop make sure that you get some support around that and do things that are really important for you.

As we know, there's a lot of issues around the world when our breath doesn't work. Obviously, with one breath, we come into the world. And with one last breath, we go out of this world. So, it's really important to just make sure that we continue to connect to our breath because it is one of the most important things. I hope today helped you and I look forward to catching you on the podcast. As always, we'd love it if you would rate or review this podcast. Thank you.