When was the last time you were able to take a deep breath and just relax? It's probably been a while, but who can blame you? Between your crazy weekday schedule and trying to play catch-up on the weekends, your life may seem a little more than "busy."
However, learning to control your breath in stressful or heated moments is one of the easiest (and most effective) ways to improve your mental, emotional and physical health.
In what ways can you learn to breathe better?
Belisa Vranich, PsyD, discusses how breathing can benefit all aspects of your life, as well as how to properly breathe.
RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: February 19, 2015
Hosts: Michelle King Robson and Pamela Peeke, MD
Guest: Belisa Vranich, PsyD
PAM: So, you and I, Michelle, were reading the same Wall Street Journal article and it was all about breathing for better health and we were laughing going, “Seriously? Breathing.” I mean, we’ve got to do it anyway, only to figure out, “Hey, there’s a whole thing to this breathing that most of us aren’t doing it right and that we want to be able to have better health,” and, lo and behold, here we are with the author of a fabulous new book. Get on out there and get it, it’s called Breathe: 14 Days to Oxygenating, Recharging and Refueling Your Body and Brain.
We have with us Dr. Belisa Vranich and she is a renowned clinical psychologist who’s going to tell us all about how we’re supposed to breathe, for crying out loud. What a strange question to ask, isn’t it?
MICHELLE: As I’m holding my breath.
DR. VRANICH: Everyone’s breathing better immediately.
PAM: Okay. Already, I’m just doing it better. I mean, deep, cleansing breaths. I’m so conscious now. So, Dr. Vranich--
MICHELLE: I can hear you.
PAM: --help us understand.
DR. VRANICH: Okay, so what’s going on is that we take it for granted. I always joke that it’s right under your nose and we take it for granted. We do all kinds of other things to feel better, but breathing and oxygen, it’s the cornerstone to your health. So, if you’re not breathing well, you can get away with it for a long time but you’re just not feeling too good. So, I know that you giggled a little when you heard about breathing and I used to get that response about 2 years ago, 3 years ago, when I first started. Folks would go, “Oh, breathing. Uh, yeah, I’ve got that okay.” You know, I’d get the palm of the hand. And now, I have folks that say, “Oh, you know what? I know I don’t breathe well. You know, can you look at me?” Or, “What do you think?” Or, “Is this normal? I hold my breath at the computer. I’m always yawning. I sigh a lot. Can you help me out?” So, I think they’re beginning to recognize that it is a problem, that they’re not doing it well and that maybe they could use some direction.
MICHELLE: So, Belisa, what are the main reasons people come to your class?
DR. VRANICH: Stress reduction is number one. They may leave feeling better in a whole bunch of different areas, but most folks come saying, “I’m either worried too much. I’m stressed, I have panic attacks, I can’t turn the chatter off at night when I’m trying to sleep.” You know the chatter. That whole committee that won’t shut up in the evening when you’re trying to go to bed.
MICHELLE: Oh, yeah.
PAM: Oh, yeah, honey. Listen, we’ve got a whole choir going.
DR. VRANICH: You’ve got a choir, right?
PAM: Yeah, man. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Why didn’t you get the 95 things done? I mean, I could just, you know? Hello.
DR. VRANICH: Exactly. I have a place for you in my class.
MICHELLE: Yes, we both need a spot. For sure.
PAM: We’ll be right up there in front row.
MICHELLE: You know, the problem with me is I hold my breath. I constantly hold my breath. Do you find a lot of people do that?
DR. VRANICH: A lot do and what you’re doing is that you’re bracing. So, it comes from two different things. It comes from bracing yourself because we’re always waiting for that second shoe to fall. Like, “What’s going to happen?” So, it helps us feel better to brace because it feels like we’re more in control and that we won’t be as thrown when something terrible happens.
MICHELLE: So true.
DR. VRANICH: So, it comes from modern life where just things happen out of nowhere. We’re hearing about terrible things and it’s an emotional response. Also, being in front of the computer and I know you’ve heard about the breath-holding that happens in front of the computer. We’re in a modern predatory state when you’re in front of your screen.
MICHELLE: Oh, my God.
DR. VRANICH: When you’re looking to catch something off in the distance or maybe just at your desk, you hold your breath because you’re focusing, so it’s that screen that is really making us hold our breath as well. Those two things—bad combination.
MICHELLE: So, what do we do? Oh, my gosh.
PAM: Yeah, I know. Like, right now, we’re all out of breaths waiting for you.
DR. VRANICH: Breathless, right?
PAM: I’m holding my breath.
MICHELLE: Which is bad.
PAM: Holding my breath waiting for an answer.
MICHELLE: So, what do you do? Really.
DR. VRANICH: So, first thing I do--my class is super, super practical. I teach anatomy, psychology and we go into breathing exercises. So, it’s not very crunchy at all, even though I do teach a meditation at the end. But, the main thing—and I have no problem giving it away—is that you need to change your breaths from being an upper body breath to being a lower body breath. Babies, small children, all animals breathe from the middle of their body. Adults, as we grow up, it sort of inches up from a middle of the body breath, which is a healthy breath, to one that’s sort of stuck right underneath your throat, which is a very small breath and one that makes you anxious automatically. Puts you in fight and flight and it’s just inefficient breath. You don’t have a lot of lungs up there. So, the most important thing for you to do is start breathing through the middle of your body and, yes, you can call that a belly breath, which is not the sexiest look ever.
DR. VRANICH: But, just getting that breath to move to the bottom part of your body.
PAM: Oh, Michelle loves that one.
MICHELLE: I hate that one.
DR. VRANICH: I know. I know. But, once you get the belly breath down--
PAM: My belt breaks.
DR. VRANICH: --you can actually start moving laterally. So, having your ribs actually flare and open up laterally and actually have your back open up a little bit as well. So, the more advanced breath is a 360 degree lower body breath where your middle does expand, but it also contracts a lot which really helps with your core and your pelvic floor. I know, ladies, that we’re supposed to be doing Kegels at the red light and when we’re brushing our teeth and I know nobody’s doing them because I know I don’t either.
MICHELLE: No, and we should be doing them but you know what I find so interesting is that I’ve read that it will help GI problems.
DR. VRANICH: Yes.
MICHELLE: So, how does it because, again, this show’s all about me, by the way, because--
PAM: GI problems!
MICHELLE: --I don’t breathe and I have really bad GI issues.
DR. VRANICH: Sure.
MICHELLE: And I’m sure the two are associated. So, what do I do for that?
DR. VRANICH: Absolutely. Absolutely. When you take that lower body breath, what happens is, you actually start breathing with your diaphragm instead of with your neck and shoulders. You probably have pretty stiff or painful neck and shoulders as well.
DR. VRANICH: Am I in the ballpark?
PAM: That’s about right.
DR. VRANICH: Now, what happens is, you can take a look at her. She probably takes a deep breath in, grows a little taller and on the exhale, gets a little shorter and relaxes. And, I want you to breathe horizontally.
PAM: And that’s only when she’s doing her Kegels.
DR. VRANICH: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, take a deep breath and when you use your diaphragm by expanding your middle, it actually massages your intestines. So, I’m not going to ask specifically what GI problems you have, but I’m going to guess that it’s either acid reflex, constipation or irritable bowel, or maybe two or three of those.
MICHELLE: All of the above. And diverticulitis.
DR. VRANICH: Oh, my gosh. Okay. So, you need to start breathing from the bottom part of your body and start getting all those organs massaged with each inhale and exhale.
MICHELLE: And, by the way, after this--after the show--I’m heading to the chiropractor to get my neck and shoulders worked on. Does that surprise you?
DR. VRANICH: No, it doesn’t.
DR. VRANICH: Because you are probably a vertical breather.
PAM: Just breathe through it.
DR. VRANICH: And, all of us can do this. Yeah. Breathe through it. But what happens is, he or she will fix you’re your neck shoulders for today but you will continue to breathe in your dysfunctional way with your shoulders and then they’ll hurt again tomorrow. So, let’s just change that.
PAM: So, the good news is, we’re going to put it all together.
DR. VRANICH: Yes.
PAM: You know something, Dr. Belisa Vranich, I want everyone out there to understand that you’ve got a great book out there that they can scope out all of the stuff we’ve been talking about. It’s called Breathe: 14 Days to Oxygenating, Recharging and Fueling Your Body and Brain.
By the way, she’s got a website. It’s DrBelisa.com and I’m telling you, I’m so glad I found that Wall Street Journal article along with Michelle because we were both looking at each other going, “Hmmm. Let’s see now. I’ve got shallow breath. You’re holding your breath all day and, you know, we’re just a little messier and we’ve got to get Dr. Vranich right here in 2 seconds to help us understand something that we thought we had down to a fine science and that was breathing.”
So, alright. Dr. Belisa Vranich, we are so happy you’ve been on HER Radio to help us understand this whole issue of breathing for your mental, emotional and physical health.
I’m Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson.
MICHELLE: Don’t forget to breathe. It’s so important for your health.
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