Breathing is one of the few body functions that is both involuntary and voluntary.
You don’t need to think about it; it just happens. In fact, it’s happened (literally) more than 75 million times every decade you’ve been alive. Who says you’re not productive?
But, you can think about and control breathing of course. Much recent scientific and “self-help industry” attention is being paid to the benefits of doing so.
Deep and Rhythmic Breathing: Health & Wellness Benefits
⇒ Reduced stress and anxiety; this is not just a mental “mood” thing – it’s about actual stress hormone reduction
⇒ Boosted immunity
⇒ Better sleep
⇒ Reduced depression and ADD symptoms
⇒ Heightened sense of calm and well-being (this is the flip side of reduced stress – but listed here again because it’s so central to enjoying our precious time here on earth)
A lot of what meditation is about, in fact, is combining controlled breathing with techniques for mental de-cluttering (with the former helping achieve the latter). Or, you can do breathing exercises without attempting the full-blown mediation part as much.
How Yoga and Swimming Bring This Benefit (Along with Many Others)
But there’s only so much time in the day, or so many personal “projects” or special routines you can really practice.
All this might sound like “just one MORE thing I know is good for me, but probably won’t do.” If so, I hear you, brother.
Here is great news for guys whose fitness routine is consistent with OlderBeast principles: yoga and swimming, two fitness pillars I’ve urged you to include, provide “controlled breathing” benefits while you are working on strength, endurance, flexibility and balance.
A typical yoga practice lasts 45 to 75 minutes. For almost all that time, you are breathing in a deep, even fashion. So in addition to all of yoga’s other benefits for 40+ guys, as a huge bonus you get these controlled-breathing benefits.
In perhaps a less obvious way, swimming provides this too. Swimming affords only occasional, evenly-timed opportunities to breathe in, and then promotes a continuous longer exhale. This is much different from how you breathe sitting at a desk, walking down the street, or even running or cycling.
Also, because you’re essentially in an isolation tank while swimming, it may be the most meditative activity there is, short of actual meditation. Taken together with swimming’s other killer benefits for the OlderBeast, this is why I so strongly urge you to add swimming into your mix, man.
Eventually, You May Do Mindful Breathing At Other Times
One cool thing I’ve found: once yoga and/or swimming make you more conscious of how controlled breathing makes you feel, you do start using this at other times during the day.
Not necessarily in a specific “breathing exercise” way, but just as a quick reset and refresh any time you might feel some stress, some fatigue, or the urge to get that “up above it all” calm and centered feeling that’s a valuable commodity in daily life.
The metaphor of our bodies as a machine might be clichéd, but it really is true. Thinking that way, nutrition is literally the raw materials and fuel we put into the machine…and breathing is how the combustion happens for the machine to work. This is not a trivial thing, if you’re focused on maximizing your fitness, health, happiness and longevity.
So keep on breathing…and make some of that breathing deep and controlled via your choice of fitness activities!
“Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care.” (Pink Floyd, Breathe)