It’s something we’re all destined to eventually experience–No matter what levels of health or wealth we’re able to achieve.
And while none of us know whether this impending day is determined by our fate, free will, or both; what we do know is that our best chances of living a long, healthy life are determined by our choices: what we eat, how we sleep, if we exercise, who we surround ourselves with, whether or not we prioritize our mental health, the list of self-care items goes on…
So what choices are the least healthy of all the developed countries making that have led to them ranking, “at or near the bottom in indicators of mortality and life expectancy?”
Well, for most, it’s a series of choices stemming from a combination of toxic emotional hygiene, poor diet and a lack of exercise–All things that ancient yogis of the East have been practicing the solution to for millennia.
The short answer? Consciousness.
The actionable version of that short answer? Conscious breathing, for starters.
But before we reveal the intricacies of this age-old secret to optimizing health and longevity, let’s dive a bit deeper into the contributing factors and take a look at what’s going on in the United States.
Toxic Emotional Hygiene
In the homeland of the “rise-and-grind” culture, stress is one thing that Americans have in spades; Yet equally prevalent is their avoidance of processing that stress. Consequently though, avoidance tends to lead to addiction. Whether that addiction is to unhealthy, processed “foods,” the moving-goal-post dopamine release of social media, gambling, sex, drugs, shopping, or all of the above — most of these avoidance techniques are regularly used to a point of normalization in Western culture. According to a 2020 report, the average American currently spends more time on their phone (8 hours) than they do sleeping.
Ironically, because the blue light from devices affects one’s melatonin levels more than any other wavelength, this social media fueled screen-time habit often leads to insomnia, which just further compounds one’s inability to manage stress.
Also frightening is the US’s consumption of pain numbing pharmaceuticals: Americans currently consume 80% of the world’s pain pills, despite only making up < 5% of the world’s population.
So combine high-stress, minus the adequate processing of that stress, add an over-generous dash of toxic coping mechanisms that further exacerbate mental and physical disease, & you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster: specifically in the form of chronic illness, obesity, and all of its life-shortening related illnesses. Its a culmination of a series of seemingly “quick-fix” Band-Aids being thrown over metaphorical “check engine lights” under the (often) misguided intent of “coping forward” down a road of self-destruction disguised as progress.
Alternatively, when one practices the Eastern yogi concept of consciousness, or “mindfulness,” all of the aforementioned unhealthy habits can finally be seen for what they really are–surface solutions for root-base problems: counterfeit substitutes for what a human truly needs–Which is arguably the most critical step in reversing these habits, as acceptance must occur before action.
Poor Diet & Lack of Exercise
Another Eastern concept starkly contrast to that of the West is their perspective on Diet. In addition to food and drink, it is a Buddhist concept that one’s diet is inclusive of everything a person consumes: from what is put in the body, to what is put on the body, down to what is being watched & listened to, as all of these elements contribute to one’s overall being.
Based on that ideology, further exacerbating the already unhealthy “Western Diet” are the propagated consumption of poisonous hygiene products, cancer-causing cleaning chemicals, and fear-mongering news — all of these toxic “consumables” compounding American’s already arduous battle with health to an understandably wearisome degree.
Due to the Western “Convenience Culture,” the majority of those living in the US also have heinously unhealthy food and drink habits, completely absent of portion control and whole, healing foods.
Experts believe that most in the US fall into 1 of 2 categories: the Westerner’s Diet, or the Prudent Diet. The Prudent diet is a Nutritionist’s dream: “People in this category tend to eat relatively large amounts of fish, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, greens, tomatoes, legumes, fresh fruits, and whole grains. They also skimp on fatty or calorie-rich foods such as red meats, eggs, high-fat dairy products, french-fries, pizza, mayonnaise, candy, and desserts. The Westerner’s Diet, on the other hand, is like the Prudent Diet reversed in a carnival mirror: “Everything is backwards: Red meat and other fatty foods take the forefront, while fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are pushed aside. In addition to fat and calories, the Western diet is loaded with cholesterol, salt, and sugar. If that weren’t bad enough, it’s critically short on dietary fiber and many nutrients — as well as plant-based substances (phytochemicals) that help protect the heart and ward off cancer.”
Combine this with the fact that more than 60 percent of U.S. adults don’t engage in the Surgeon General’s recommended amount of daily activity (with 25% not being active at all), and it’s suddenly very obvious why one of the wealthiest countries in the world is also one of the unhealthiest.
So besides being “mindful” and adopting a more inclusive definition of the term “diet,” how can you avoid falling victim to the same fate as the majority of the West? Once again, we point you towards the ancient secrets of the East:
For millennia, yogis have been using breathwork to address concerns related to “aging, loss of energy, mental functions, sexual capacity, independence, and the ability to deal with physical or emotional stress.”
These venerated traditions work by activating our parasympathetic nervous system (which calms down our fight-or-flight response) and inducing a non-ordinary state of consciousness. In short, they improve our self-repair and self-regulating mechanisms that affect longevity, resilience, and quality of life.
While these health-optimizing breathing practices have been around since the beginning of time, science is just now beginning to provide evidence that their healing powers are real. Studies have found that conscious breathwork can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, inflammation, depression, hormonal imbalances, asthma, hypertension, sleep dysfunctions, and attention deficit disorder.
Controlled breathing also affects the immune system. An interesting example of this was conducted by Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina. They divided 20 “healthy” adults into two groups, with Group 1 being instructed to do two sets of 10-minute breathing exercises, and Group 2 being instructed to read a text of their choice for 20 minutes. All of the subjects’ saliva was tested at various stages of the exercise, and it was discovered that the breathing exercise group’s saliva had significantly lower levels of three cytokines associated with inflammation and stress. The findings were published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in August.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum Westerner to Ancient Yogi, all of us want to be healthier, and most of us want to live a long, happy life. And while doing so requires more than just one healthy lifestyle choice, why not start with the fastest way to change your state according to the #1 Peak Performance Coach in the World, Tony Robbins? While achieving true wellness requires a variety of healthy choices made in conjunction, consistently, over time – Breathwork is one of the easiest ways to start!
If you’d like to learn more about how breathwork can improve your health and longevity, checkout the festival archive video below featuring Patrick McKeown, Best-selling Author of Oxygen Advantage and The Breathing Cure, and Dan Brulé, Founder of The Breathing Festival, International Center for Breathwork, BreathMastery + personal breathing coach to Tony Robbins, where they discuss the effect our breathing patterns have on both our biochemistry and autonomic nervous system. You’ll learn why adopting a breathing practice is so essential for optimum health, as well as the breath’s impact on all things physiological from our hormonal changes, to our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Want More? ICFB Members have exclusive access to the entire Festival Archive. Click Here to begin your membership today!
Don’t have thousands of dollars to hire your own private breathwork coach or attend expensive breathwork classes? The beauty of an ICFB membership is you don’t have to! As home to one of the largest collections of digital breathwork resources in the world, our members have on-demand access to guided breathwork sessions, full talks, and bite-size toolkit sessions, in addition to LIVE (via Zoom) events from the world’s leading breathwork masters.
Whether you’re looking for ways to decrease your anxiety, increase your athletic performance, calm down your kids or connect deeper in your spiritual practice — Breathwork is the modality for you.
Brought to you by the International Center for Breathwork.
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* This article includes information from the following sources: