Peter Lee Thomas talks diaphragmatic breathing—taking control of your breath—which dates back as early as the first millennium, B.C.
Breathing is simple, right? We do it all day long without thinking about it—at least, until a flight of stairs makes its way into the picture or sprints are the workout of the day. You’ll be fine if you never give a second thought to the breaths you take throughout the day, but you’ll be far better if you do.
Just ask Peter Lee Thomas, lifelong martial artist and trainer to A-list celebrities like Halle Berry. He looks like a bodybuilder, could make easy work of kicking your ass (but wouldn’t), and counts practicing breath training techniques as one of the foundations of his daily routine.
Going out of your way to consciously breathe may sound far out, but some of the world’s fiercest athletes can vouch for it. Bruce Lee may be the most well-known, but even if you’re no martial artist and think that this is no activity for a gym rat to use in their routine, consider the fact that legendary six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates is also into it.
The concept of diaphragmatic breathing—the much less far-out-sounding way to say taking control of your breaths—is nothing new. It’s a practice that dates back as early as the first millennium, B.C., and even modern psychological studies have found that it can be an effective, non-pharmacological way to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.
Those psychological benefits are what keeps Thomas hooked, and they’re important now more than ever in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has countless people understandably stressed and frustrated.
“This is where the breathing taps in,” he says. “This is where collective calmness, that warrior mindset where you have to be fully relaxed in the most unrelaxed environments, comes in. This is what gets me through my day, is truly tapping back into the breath.”
We picked Thomas’ brain to find out how he uses breathing techniques, what they’re all about, and his tips for beginners to start their own breath training journeys.
1 of 3
View this post on Instagram
Collective meditation works. Be in tune with your inner universe. The thing with meditation is...you will become more and more you... Let’s continue to meditate and heal one another and this planet. We’re all one. Each one teach one 🙏🏼 🥋
A post shared by @ peterleethomas on
How and When to Use Breathing Techniques
Thomas’ mind was opened up by the many years he’s spent studying and competing in martial arts.
“I’ve had a lot of different teachers, but each one of them had some version of breathwork that was integrated into our program, whether we knew about it or not,” he said. “There was always this moment before class or after class where you have to shut off and turn off all the channels in your head and tap back into that breathing.”
Now, it’s the first thing he does in the morning and something that keeps him centered all day. Again, studies have shown that utilizing your own breath can help with chronic stress. Thomas lauds it as a way to stay in control of your own emotions even if the outside world, be it someone cutting you off at an intersection or a global pandemic, is in a state of stress or chaos.
“It’s not about trying to control our thoughts, it’s about not letting our thoughts control us and just listening to the birds, listening to the sound of the car or whatever, and seeing if you can slowly but surely just kind of go back to center,” Thomas explains. “Go back to the breathing, go back to the breath, because all of those other things will just kind of fade away. And I have noticed that the more I do it, the less anxious I become, so I always go back to it.”
For those who want to get started with breathwork, his advice is to just do it. Instead of focusing on setting aside time or planning it out, just try it and—this is important—believe in its potential.
One of the simplest ways to give it a try is to breathe in a four-four-four sequence. Spend four seconds breathing in, four seconds breathing out, and four seconds holding it.
This goes without saying, but you can literally do this anywhere and at any time. Thomas recommends taking a moment to breathe before and after working out, hiking, going for a walk, or any fit activity. He also has a yoga mat next to his bed, so he can start his mornings with some reflection and reading.
Of course, if memory isn’t your strong suit, you can always set reminders on your phone, write a note to yourself, or even write it down on your hand so it’s on your mind.
2 of 3
4 Breathing Techniques to Relax Your Mind
Like any form of training, breathing is something that can get very complicated. Thomas suggests leaving the advanced breathing techniques to the yoga masters and starting small. Here (and in the video above) are four techniques that Thomas suggests trying either alone or together for some mind-body benefits.
Before you get to breathing, make sure you’re comfortably seated with your torso elevated and your spine straight.
1. Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)—”Allows the mind to be calm and focused, relaxes body, gets you into meditative state,” Thomas says.
- Pinch one nostril with your thumb, and empty your breath out.
- Fully inhale through same nostril, now using ring finger or middle finger pinch opposite nostril and fully exhale through the nostril.
- Repeat as long as desired. Synchronize your inhalations and exhalations.
2. Wim Hof Method Holotropic Breathing—”Uses the concept of hyperventilation to alter different states of consciousness. Offers for relaxation of mind and body,” Thomas says. “There are many studies and benefits of this breathing, and it helps you think deeper into your internal world.”
- Take a full breath in and half a relaxed breath out 30 times. (May feel euphoric and tingling in fingers that’s normal, go with the flow and stay relaxed.)
- After the last exhalation, hold the breath in and observe the sensations that occur within your body.
- When you feel like you need to breathe again, take a deep inhalation and hold the breath for another 20 to 30 seconds.
- Exhale and repeat the process for three rounds.
3. The ( four – four – four) breathing sequence—The simplest way to tap into your breath.
- Inhale slowly for a four count, exhale for a four count, and hold the breath in for four count. Repeat for as long as you’d like.
- You’ll notice mind chatter will start to disappear.
4. Breath of Fire
- Breathe in and out through the nose and start to pull your abdomen in during the exhale, and press it out during the inhale.
- Start to shorten each breath and pick up the pace.
***Added benefit: Exhale fully on last breath and hold the abdomen inwards for as long as you’d like, creating a “vacuum” like form.
For the most immersive experience, do all four breathing methods in a sequential order.
3 of 3
View this post on Instagram
This is what the end of 150 reps looks like. Initially, I broke them up into sets of 20 reps, and when that plan failed, I fragmented the reps up with small resting periods until I reached my desired goal of 150 reps. . . This was my second workout of the day. Earlier this morning I did 1,500 speed jump rope skips followed by 150 squats and 150 military presses. As you can see there was a method to my madness today with the number scheme. . . The take away lesson.... Today is the perfect day and opportunity to get better. Be it morning, mid day or evening, it doesn’t matter - just get it done. Don’t waste the seconds rolling by. . . The mind always fails first, not the body. The secret is to make your mind work for you not against you... . . Comment if you’re getting your workout in this weekend, challenge a friend and tag me in your workouts. P.S. click on my link in the bio and join me for a workout. 🐲 🔥
A post shared by @ peterleethomas on
Get Outside, Train, and Maybe Take a Cold Shower
Another one of Thomas’ biggest tips during stressful times is as simple as breathing: Get outside and reconnect with nature, no matter where you are.
“Even if you live in an urban jungle, just step on a little piece of earth—not concrete,” he says. “That is going to go through your body and help you reconnect with nature, because it’s like coming home from a long, stressful journey. We forget to go outside to get some vitamin D in our skin and to get some uncirculated air.” Ideally, you’d take your shoes off and get your feet on some sand or dirt.
A quick scroll through Thomas’ Instagram will tell you he’s also a big advocate of getting outside while he trains, and many home workout routines can easily be done while you get some sunshine. There are plenty of benefits to getting outside, and it’ll undoubtedly make you feel good—just don’t forget your sunscreen.
It goes without saying that martial arts training is a go-to for Thomas, and it’s another aspect of his life he attributes his otherwise zen demeanor to. After all, there may be no better way to release stress than hitting a heavy bag.
Finally, take a cold shower when you’re done sweating. Even Thomas admits that the burliest of bodybuilders might find this unbearable, but starting with a 30- or 60-second shot of freezing cold water is something he swears by. Cold therapy is another concept that’s been studied time and again with various results, but starting with a cold shower is an easy way to see if it works for you.
In the end, Thomas’ key to making it all work and alleviating stress is just breathing through it.
“You’ve gotta just step up and go, alright, I’m doing it. I don’t have any time to think about it anymore,” he says. “And I think that’s really just being in the moment and letting go—just breathing, believing in the breath and being the manager of your own energy and manager of your own thoughts.”
This story originally appeared on: Muscle & Fitness - Author:HealthDailyPosts