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Breathwork To Prevent Burnout: Alternate Nostril Breathing & Tummo Breathing

October 18, 20234 min read

In an UNCrushed survey on burnout, 74% of respondents agree/strongly agree that they feel they are on call 24/7 and have to respond to customers immediately or it will impact their relationship.

Introduction:

We live in a world with non-stop stress. While short bouts of stress are incredibly healthy, most of us struggle with chronic stress that follows us home from work and prevents us from truly resting at the end of the day. When we wake up in the morning, we can be filled with dread at tackling yet another day of the grind.

These 2 Breathwork techniques should be used to relax at the end of the day and pump you up in the morning. They are Alternate Nostril Breathing and Tummo Breathing.

1. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) for True Rest

Overview

Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a powerful technique to restore balance and calm in the body.

The first thing that happens when you enter a stressful circumstance is that rhythmic breathing stops. We begin to breathe erratically, some taking double or even triple inhales, and holding our breath. Nadi Shodhana can be a positive anchor to come back to slow, rhythmic breathing in triggering moments.

Science

Nadi Shodhana has a lot of baggage around it as many people in the yogic community have claimed the alternate nostril aspect to this technique can be used to induce parasympathetic states. While there is definitely a “nasal cycle” and nostril dominance, as discussed by Noam Sobel and Andrew Huberman, air flow through one nostril is not a definitive indication of sympathetic or parasympathetic dominance.

What we do know is that slow, rhythmic breathing helps to calm us down by slowing our heart rate. By returning to rhythmic breathing, and even trying to slow the breathing and extend the exhales, we can quickly calm down. This is because rhythmic breathing returns control of the breath to the Prebotzinger nucleus, a part of the brain involved in controlling our breathing (as opposed to the parafacial nucleus). When we deliberately take over this action, such as during periods of stress or fear, we can help to regulate our emotional state.

Protocol

Use this when you are struggling to let go of work and need something stronger than silent meditation to focus the mind. Great to do outside in nature.

Walkthrough

  1. Sit comfortably with your back straight and your eyes closed.

  2. Place your left hand on your left knee and bring your right hand to your face.

  3. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril.

  4. At the top of your inhale, close your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril.

  5. Inhale through your right nostril, close it with your right thumb, and exhale through your left nostril.

  6. Repeat this cycle for 3-5 minutes, focusing on your breath and the sensation of the air moving through your nostrils.

2. Tummo Breathing

Science

Improved Immunity Through Secondary Immune System Activation

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the innate immune response, which is the body's natural response to infection. When people were injected with an endotoxin like E. coli but then did Breathwork (and breath holds), their anti-inflammatory signals went up and their pro inflammatory cytokines like interleukin six went down. This is most likely due to the release of adrenaline.

Released Anxiety Through Stress Resilience

My favorite analogy for this sort of Breathwork is a “vaccine against stress”. We are actually increasing our level of anxiety, but we are doing it deliberately. This is akin to a vaccine, where we expose ourselves voluntarily to something stressful (in this case, stress) for a short duration and our body learns for the rest of our life how to deal with it better.

Boost Energy Through Release of Adrenaline

Breathwork energizes us via the release of adrenaline in the brain and body

Protocol

Use this when you are struggling to get motivated to take on another day of work. There is tremendous power in receiving a jolt of energy simply by breathing intensely for a few minutes. Also do this if you feel a slight tickle in your throat or you think you may be at risk of infection. Caution: if you are already sick, it may be wiser to simply rest.

Walkthrough

  1. Sit with a straight spine.

  2. Inhale through the nose, filling up the belly then the chest like a wave.

  3. Without pausing at the top, exhale lightly (no need to push).

  4. Repeat 30 times

  5. Exhale completely and hold breath for 90 seconds

  6. Take a breath in

  7. Repeat for 2 more rounds.

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