We love a good book around here, specifically books that can help with overall wellness. There’s nothing more soothing that relaxing with a few pages and some tea, especially if it’s about how to relax and care for yourself like the book Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health, by our friend and Philosophy Hope & Grace Initiative friend, Dr. Belisa Vranich.
We had a moment between interviews to ask Dr. Vranich about her book, and she was more than happy to tell us all about it. Ready to take a few more deep breaths in life and relieve your seemingly-unending stress levels? Read on..
Philosophy: Can you tell us a little about your book, about the idea behind it?
Dr. Vranich: “The book is called Breathe, and it’s so important because, while we already know breathing is important from a general survival level, we’ve devolved as far as how we do it, to the point where we need to learn how to breathe again. The way we’re breathing right now as a society, particularly the way nine out of ten adults are doing it, is in an anatomically incongruous way. We’re using parts of our bodies that weren’t meant to be used in breathing, and that’s causing a ripple of health effects that are mind-blowingly bad.
My book is different from other tomes on the subject because it’s incredibly practical. If you would have gone online say a year ago looking for breathing exercises, you would have gotten–and I know this because I’ve been online studying breathing exercises—some really ‘woo-woo,’ ‘out there’ advice, or you get physical therapists speaking in jargon that doesn’t make any sense.
I wrote this book to be incredibly practical so everyone can address their individual issues with their breath, from the person recovering from COPD to former and current smokers to people who just need to learn how not to panic and go into an anaerobic state or those who can’t sleep at night. Brain fog, low energy, anxiety and panic disorders – almost every malady can be traced back to the breath.
It’s truly a companion to The Breathing Class, which is a course I teach on proper breathing techniques. The feedback to the book is akin to that of people who come to the class: they say it’s life-changing. I thought they were exaggerating but, really, it’s pretty life-changing.”
Philosophy: What are some of the surprises in the book? What might shock people about breathing that they wouldn’t know without reading the books?
Dr. Vranich: I think most people would be shocked to discover that former smokers are actually better breathers. Once I can get them to stop smoking, the way they breathe is better than your average person. It’s wild, although they have to recondition themselves because you don’t have the cork or the end of the cigarette to draw from, you need to teach yourself to inhale that deeply but in a different way.
Philosophy: That’s amazing! Who might really benefit from the book? You mentioned those recovering from COPD and individuals with panic disorder.
Dr. Vranich: Athletes, definitely athletes and people who want better endurance or conditioning. Also, anyone wanting to prolong their life. If you want to do one thing to better your quality of life, being able to exhale well — particularly being able to exhale well — is crucial. Most older adults suffer medical problems because of the amount of residual air left in their bodies. Making sure you exhale fully and properly as an older adult is crucial to long-term health and wellness. People assume that vascular dementia is normal, that pelvic floor dysfunction and adult diapers are normal. All those things can be controlled through proper breathing.
Take, for example, the size of the Incontinence section of the drugstore. Years ago, there was no such thing. Part of it is our population is aging, but the popularity of sports like Crossfit that damage and herniate the pelvic floor. But your pelvic floor health depends on you using your diaphragm; they’re connected. If you’re not using your diaphragm to breathe —and most people aren’t — then it affects everything in your body. If you have digestive disorders, back pain, incontinence – the first thing you need to do with any of these to improve and cure your situation is to change your breathing to the middle part of your body.
Philosophy: When you say change your breathing to the middle part of your body, what does that mean?
Dr. Vranich: Breathing from your armpits to your pelvis. So what I ask people to do is look at any animal on the planet and examine how they take in air. You’ll notice they breathe at the biggest part of their lungs, so you can watch that part of their body expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale. It could be a dog, cat, skunk, fainting goat —regardless of the type of animal, it expands on the inhale and exhale where the biggest part of its lungs are. We’re the only silly animals that don’t. The biggest part of your lungs exist almost down by your belly button. Human beings brace when we move and breathe; we walk around squeezing that section all the time, which means we’re slowly choking ourselves to death.
Philosophy: All of this is so interesting! Where can we tell readers to get the book?
Dr. Vranich: I always like supporting your local bookstore, so go there first or use Indiebound to find it at a local book seller. If they don’t have it, go to Barnes & Noble or Amazon. I do want to mention that the Audible version is really good; I actually really like the way the book turned out on audio. I hope this helps you breathe better for a lifetime!