You’re Breathing All Wrong—Here’s How To Do It Right



Are you doing anything right now? Of course you’re not—you’re reading wellness articles on the Internet. Why don’t you take a moment out of your rigorous afternoon of self-improvement and indulge in a long, deep breath? Inhale for six whole seconds, expel that air, and record, very specifically, what your body is doing while this is happening. Do your chest and shoulders rise up to your chin? Does your gut buckle in a little bit on the inhale, pressing against your abdominal wall? If so, congratulations: You are a vertical breather! You are also doing it very, very wrong.

This is the information Dr. Belisa Vranich delivered unto me one day, in a sparsely decorated rent-a-room near Madison Square Park. She's an expert on how to breath right. Using a tape measure, Dr. Vranich recorded my girth at the crest and trough of my breathing pattern. Then she scribbled some figures on a sheet of paper and typed a ratio into her calculator. 29.99 (repeating) was my score. That translates to a 29% on my Breathing Test, which is a failing grade. I would have performed better if I had not breathed at all.

Dr. Vranich, a self-minted Breathing Instructor, got her doctorate in child psychology from NYU, and this is the least of her accomplishments. During the course of our hour-and-a-half long meeting, which was surreally transformative, she casually makes reference to about six thousand jobs she’s had in her lifetime. Jobs which include: Health and Sex Editor at Men’s Fitness. Director of Public Education at the Mental Health Association of NYC. Director of something else for Gold’s Gym that I can’t remember, but it was very impressive and eminent in the field. At our meeting she wore gold hoops and a “Dr. Belisa” branded tee. Her voice—affectionate and deep—lulled me into a fugue state of blind faith within 15 minutes of meeting her, as she informed me that I had spent about 20 years of my life breathing incorrectly.

According to Dr. Vranich, we are all born with proper breathing habits, and we amble through the first five or so years of our lives inhaling and exhaling with proper form. But after that, as we start to bear the physical and emotional burdens of maturity, our breathing changes. We become anxious, pulling tension into our shoulders. We suck in our stomachs, acutely aware of how others perceive us. Before long, we are taking shorter, less substantial breaths from our chest—the habit quickly becomes second-nature. Almost like breathing.

But a small comfort: According to Dr. Vranich, 9.5/10 people are just like you and I—wrong. We breathe up-and-down, like actors of Claritin commercials. When we inhale, our shoulders lift away from our anatomical center, where breath belongs. Proper breath is horizontal; it happens at the belly, and engages our diaphragm, a “frisbee-sized flank steak”—this is a metaphor Dr. Vranich is fond of—that bisects our torso. If you breathe vertically, you ignore your diaphragm, which sits directly between your heart and your gut. When it’s moving, everything else is happy. When it’s not, problems arise. Nothing here is particularly life-threatening—vertical breathing is not a chronic condition that threatens your existence—but it has been linked to high blood pressure, digestive problems, back pain, and general stress. And its antidote is simple: An hour with Dr. Vranich.

Dr. Vranich’s clientele includes MMA fighters and professional singers, magazine editors and golf celebrities—plus regular celebrities, I think, although she wouldn’t confirm. Her life’s work exists at the apex of stress reduction and performance enhancement, which is why the Department of Homeland Security is a client. During goofy, emotional one-on-one sessions, Dr. Vranich will change the way you breathe forever. When you leave, everything changes, and I am not being dramatic—your posture, your gait, the way you speak, the flow of oxygen to your brain is slightly, but perceptibly different.



“[People] are empowered, and that’s exactly why I love doing what I do is because you have everything you need to get yourself to feel better… Breathing is something that’s yours, and we’ve forgotten that. We’ve forgotten how powerful it can be. We’ve forgotten how to do it right.”

Dr. Belisa Vranich is the Director of Breathing Science at the Ash Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. Dr. Belisa began her career as a clinical psychologist with the intention of having a long-standing therapy practice. As she explored different methods of reducing stress, Dr. Belisa developed an interest in yoga breathing and martial arts-based breathing techniques. The result of her study is The Breathing Class, a practical, science-based method that addresses the physical and psychological problems related to ‘bad breath.’

Dr. Belisa is also a sought-after public speaker and the author of Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. A regular guest on platforms like CNN, the Today Show and Good Morning America, Dr. Belisa joins us today to share the right way to breathe, explaining how we start out breathing correctly and later adopt the stress breath that works against our body design. She discusses her science-based approach to improved breathing, the classic studies around breathing muscle strength, and the different breathing strategies she recommends for precision versus power sports. Listen in for Dr. Belisa’s insight on the benefits of horizontal breath for athletes in terms of endurance and recovery!

What Hillary Clinton Knows About Easing Anxiety

How Hillary Clinton Relieves Anxiety.jpg

Hey, if it works for HRC...

Yoga and the occasional glass of chardonnay weren’t the only remedies HRC says she turned to after the 2016 presidential election. Her other ritual? Alternate-nostril breathing. Find calm and focus with the yogi breath exercise Hillary Clinton praises in her memoir What Happened.

Step 1. Get in position.

Sit comfortably, with your back straight, and rest your left hand on your lap and right hand on your nose—ring finger or pinky on the left nostril, thumb on the right.

Step 2. Block and breathe.

Relax your eyes, close your right nostril and inhale through your left. Next, close both and hold your breath for a few seconds. Then release your thumb, and exhale through your right side, keeping your hand in front of your face.

Step 3. Reverse and repeat.

Begin again, inhaling through your right, and follow the cycle, which, as New York City psychologist Belisa Vranich, Psy.D., explains, releases the calming gas nitric oxide. This will stimulate your brain's vagus nerve to lower your heart rate—and ease anxiety.


Breathing classes, bizarrely, are increasingly popular. Here’s why it should headline your agenda


Take a deep breath, because we’re about to introduce you to an early contender for 2018’s most out-there fitness trend: The Breathing Class. Currently sweeping across the US, classes in how to breathe right are inevitably on their way to the UK soon.

Founded by Dr Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of a book by the same name, The Breathing Class’s mission is to help us learn to breathe correctly.

Think you’re doing it right already? Not so, says Dr Vranich. In fact, the vast majority of us are sucking in our O2 in an inefficient and potentially damaging way.

"Most of the time, people use their neck and shoulders, and those absolutely are not breathing muscles," she says. Instead, we should be breathing like animals do, with our lungs expanding and contracting in the middle of our chests.


So, gone is the traditional in through the nose, out through the mouth method. Put simply, we should be making proper use of our diaphragm, not our shoulders.

Vranich says that once you’ve mastered this technique you’ll see benefits not just in catching your breath but also when it comes to digestion, athletic performance, quality of sleep and energy levels.

Sounds promising? It should do. Vranich's technique harnesses breathing principles perfected by athletes who need a good lungful more than most- think MMA fighters, yogis and free divers.

Thankfully, if the idea of an hour-long class on how to breathe is more likely to leave you yawning, Vranich says that just five minutes a day, post-workout, is enough time to practice a breathing regimen that could unlock new levels of athletic performance.

In fact, according to a number of top level fitness professionals, breathing correctly can double to strength. 

BREATHING is the next big thing in fitness – and you're probably doing it wrong.

  • Breathing exercise classes are sweeping gyms across the US
  • Dr Belisa, who founded The Breathing Class and is developing similar programs for veterans and Equinox gyms, explains why we are all breathing wrong
  • When we workout and breath faster, lactic acid builds up, leading to fatigue and more acidic blood, undermining our best athletic efforts
  • Dr Belisa explains how better breathing helps professional weightlifters and MMA fighters break past their barriers

Breathing better isn't just for yoga any more, with top gyms across the US adding classes all about your breathe to their rosters. 

Slowing down and controlling breathing has long been accepted as one of the best ways to lower the heart rate and keep us calm. 

But with science on their side, coaches, trainers and exercise evangelists are pushing for breathing to become this year's fitness fad.

With its newfound uses, the old 'inhale, exhale,' is out, and using the right muscles to breath better is in - and it's harder work than it sounds, Dr Belisa Vranich, founder of The Breathing Class, explained to Daily Mail Online. 

 When we breath properly, Dr Belisa says (center), our shoulders should not rise and fall, as she demonstrates to a client. She is one of a growing number of trainers that see diaphragm breathing as the key to building strength and avoiding injury

When we breath properly, Dr Belisa says (center), our shoulders should not rise and fall, as she demonstrates to a client. She is one of a growing number of trainers that see diaphragm breathing as the key to building strength and avoiding injury

Dr Belisa - as she prefers to be called - is on the front lines of the breathing movement, developing breathing programs with the US Veteran's Administration and Equinox gyms, and coaching everyone from military personnel to average joes and competitive weightlifters to rethink one of their body's most basic functions.

And according to her, we are all doing it wrong.

'Most of the time, people use their necks and shoulders, and those absolutely are not breathing muscles,' she says. 

These are auxiliary, or secondary, muscles and should only be involved in breathing by providing support for the more core muscles.  Using our shoulders instead is what causes our shoulders to rise and fall with our breath, which Dr Belisa says they shouldn't do. 

Instead, we should 'breath the way that animals breath,' with our lungs expanding and contracting in and out, in the middle of our bodies, says Dr Belisa.   

'Humans are the only dumb animal on the face of the planet that switches, after the age of five, to up and down breathing,' she says.   

Then you are 'taking a breath that is anatomically incongruous and is actually detrimental to our health.' 

'Bad' breath can hurt our digestive systems, spine, ability to sleep and energy levels, she says.  and vertical breathing puts an unnecessary strain on shoulder and neck muscles, making them more vulnerable to injuries. 

The secret to 'good' breath is all in the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a large core muscle that sits just below the lungs and above the gut, 'like a flank steak the size of a Frisbee,' Dr Belisa says. 

But we don't use this muscle because, 'culturally we're gut-suckers,' she says.

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When we brace ourselves with stress or suck in our stomachs, we are in poor position to use the diaphragm. 

That really deprives us of some key advantages for both athleticism and mental health. 

Diaphragm breathing has long been taught as a method to calm people because it stimulates the vagus nerve, which, in turn helps to lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Though she is a licensed and trained psychologist, Dr Belisa is equally interested in the physical benefits of breathing as she is in its mental health advantages.

'Stronger breathing muscles make for better athletic performance,' she says, and research as well as her experience bears that out.

Dr Belisa combines techniques taken from free-diving, yoga, martial arts and singing and makes them 'user-friendly,' she explains.  

Better breathing techniques allow the athletes she works with - including MMA fighters and  trainers at some of the most high-end gyms in the country - to develop better endurance.  

Dr Belisa says that many athletes 'hit a wall,' because their breathing gets too fast while exercising, but that they are able to break those barriers once they've done breath training. 

 Dr Belisa Vranich works with top athletes to improve their breathing and, in turn, their athletic abilities

Dr Belisa Vranich works with top athletes to improve their breathing and, in turn, their athletic abilities

While she teaches the muscular components of breathing, others turn their attention to carbon dioxide. 

This basically boils down to holding your breath while working out. 

'Hypoxic training makes you tolerate having different levels of CO2 in your body,' says Dr Belisa. 

As our work outs intensify, our heart and breathing rate climb. As we quickly take in and use up oxygen, carbon dioxide also builds up in our system. The body treats it as waste, and the need to breath it out faster can tire us out. 

So, building up a tolerance for carbon monoxide can also aid endurance training and weight lifting performances. 

Together, better breathing techniques 'makes you able to work out harder and recover enough so that [you] don't hurt yourself,' more quickly, Dr Belisa says. 

Better breathing can lead to more efficient detoxification of your body, she explains.  

'Most of us are very acidic, but when we breath better, we move the needle,' Dr Belisa says. 

The build-up of carbon dioxide also lowers the pH, or acidity level of the blood. 

Optimally, the blood should be at a neutral pH of 7.35, but 'most of us are walking around very acidic, under 6.5 or sometimes even under six,' Dr Belisa says.  

So the more we work out, the more acidic our pH becomes and 'your adrenals start working overtime to bring you back.  But that adrenal fatigue and acid reflux [that can come with it] get better right away if you start using your diaphragm to breath,' Dr Belisa says.  

She says that spending five minutes before and after any workout doing a breathing regimen can have noticeable effects on how you feel and your overall athletic performances. 

'Getting people to change their health habits is an absolute nightmare,' Dr Belisa explains. 'But when you teach people about how they're breathing, they say they can't stop thinking about it, and I think it really resonates that you used to breath this way.'


D&D Fitness Radio Podcast - Episode 003

Dr. Belisa Vranich: One Breath at a Time

Continuing along the theme of exploring the basics and developing foundational qualities for performance, health, fitness and wellness, Don Saladino and Derek Hansen sit down with Dr. Belisa Vranich to discuss the importance of and the biomechanics of proper breathing. While some people may consider breathing a natural activity that we shouldn't have to learn, Dr. Belisa identifies the key elements of breathing that may not be present in our daily routines. The stress of life has created a situation where our nervous systems have become accustomed to thriving in a sympathetic and exhausted state. This trend has spawned a greater incidence of anxiety, depression, chronic pain and fatigue that plagues modern society. Dr. Belisa identifies strategies for facilitating recovery and regeneration through biomechanically appropriate breathing techniques and protocols. Dr. Belisa Vranich is a renowned clinical psychologist, public speaker, and the author of Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health (St. Martin’s Press/Hay House). Belisa is also the Director of Breathing Science at The Ash Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. To find out more information about Dr. Belisa Vranich or purchase her book, "Breathe", please visit the following links: http://www.thebreathingclass.com

Breathing Exercises for Better Physical & Mental Health

Talk Healthy Today with Lisa Davis

Contemporary science confirms what generations of healers have observed through centuries of practice: breath awareness can turn on the body’s natural abilities to prevent and cure illness. 

The mental and physical stresses of modern life, such as anxiety, frustration, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, high blood pressure, digestive woes, and immune dysfunction can all be addressed through conscious control of your breath. In addition, it can increase energy, accelerate healing, improve cognitive skills, and enhance mental balance.

Yet, most of us stopped breathing in the anatomically “right” way, the way to take advantage of these benefits, when we were four or five years old. We now mostly breathe in a way that is anatomically incongruous and makes for more illness. 

In her book, Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health, Dr. Belisa Vranich shows readers how to turn back the tide of stress and illness, and improve the overall quality of their life through a daily breathing workout. 

By combining both anatomy and fitness with psychology and mindfulness, Dr. Vranich provides a way of solving health problems at the crux and healing themselves from the inside out.

Listen as Dr. Vranich joins host Lisa Davis to share insights from the book and how you can use breathing to increase energy, lose weight, and feel calmer and happier.

A 60-second breathing exercise for when your family gets on your last nerve


Diffuse family stress and calm down in one minute flat.

“Thanksgiving to New Years — a little over a month — is the most overstimulating time of the year,” says Dr. Belisa Vranich, clinical psychologist and author of Breathe: The Simply, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. “There are way too many obligations from too many parts of life that coincide in the same time: financial, vocational, emotional, family-related.”

While we would all benefit from pressing pause and taking a much-needed break, jam-packed holiday schedules don't always allow it. "'Turning inward' and just checking in on yourself is virtually impossible since all your attention is being pulled outward and towards what you have go get done — which is not just end of year work stress, but family stress and holiday obligations paired with two major holidays one on top of the other,” says Dr. Vranich. “You get so externally driven and overstimulated that you don't see when you are exhausted or overwhelmed until things blow up.”

Since taking a break isn’t always possible, having a 60-second trick up your sleeve to release that tension (and get a breather from your family) will be a life saver.


A simple way to calm down anywhere, anytime? Breathe.

“The exercises I teach come from martial arts, free diving, singing and yoga,” says Vranich. “Exhale pulsations are short sharp exhales where you reset your body and mind and can help get rid of irritability — something we are tend to feel around the holidays as we try to get through unrealistic to-do lists and deadlines.”

Making sure you discharge negative energy and irritability before you ask yourself to calm down is the key, says Vranich. “Too often we put ourselves into a self-imposed time-out but are still angry/upset so calming down is tough,” she adds.

To accomplish this, Vranich recommends stepping away from the situation and going through this simple two-step exercise. Don’t worry, it takes just 60 seconds (just enough time for a quick bathroom break away from the dining table.) May we suggest using it when your mother-in-law asks when you plan to have another baby?

STEP 1: RELEASE. Exhale and blow out of your mouth as if you are blowing out a candle. Make a noise with the air hitting the back of your teeth (“psst” — much like a jab in boxing). Make sure your body is narrowing on the exhale. You want to squeeze out all the stale/residual air. (Again, more oxygen is not the key, a balance of both is what you are going for). This should feel like it’s an ab exercise.

“Most often when we are stressed we breathe hold or just hover taking little inhales and exhales so this is a great reset,” says Vranich. “And the exhale is the underdog, but a very, very important one to pay attention to. (You can’t inhale well if you haven’t exhaled well.)”

STEP 2: CALM. After a sequence of these (be it 5, 10 or 20) take a big, deep inhale where you expand your middle; keep your shoulders still. With each breath: slow down more, close your eyes and switch to your nose. You can choose to do this to a certain breath count (i.e. in for five counts, out for five counts). For a boost: Hum on the exhale, which stimulates your vagus nerve to calm you further.

“You might find you can put yourself into a mini-meditative state,” says Vranich. “Neurologically you are going from a sympathetic state (flight or flight) to a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).”

Episode 377 – Dr. Belisa Vranich – Let’s Talk About Breathing

Our guest this episode is Dr. Belisa Vranich. She is a renowned clinical psychologist, public speaker, and the author of Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. Belisa is also the Director of Breathing Science at The Ash Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City.

Listen in as we talk about proper breathing, it’s health benefits, how it can improve your athletic performance, health, stress, and more.

Breathing like your dog can help with back pain, acid reflux and more

When you say back pain, acid reflux or anxiety, improper breathing doesn’t even cross your mind as one of the culprits.

Think again, says Dr. Belisa Vranich, a renowned clinical psychologist and the author of “Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health.”

Yes, we all do it; we breathe. But most of us take shallow breaths. In time, Vranich says, this can lead to an array of problems with seemingly no connection to dysfunctional breathing: trouble sleeping, irritable bowel, depression, fibromyalgia and more.

Vranich, who teaches people how to get their oxygenation in balance through her The Breathing Class, chatted with us about what good breathing patterns can do for your health plus a fun mantra to help you remember proper form. Here are the highlights from our interview:

On how breathing correctly can help you get fit:

“It can improve your workouts. First, breathing can help you recover from one day to the next; it actually gives you more energy.

Often, when you focus intensely, you don’t breathe and you get tired quickly. At the gym, you should always be exhaling on the effort.”

On how to keep your energy up at work by taking deep breaths:

“You tend to breathe less when you get in front of the computer because your vision is not moving and your screen is small. You tense up your whole body and take tiny little breaths. It actually puts you on alert so you get tired more quickly. Relax your body, take deeper breaths and you won’t deplete your energy.”

On breathing as a quick-fix for acid reflux and back pain:

“It can help very quickly with acid reflux. When you use your diaphragm to breathe, it helps keep the acid down. You know you’re using your diaphragm, when your middle expands on the inhale. You should do belly breathing: squeezing and narrowing your belly on the exhale.”

On the link between poor oxygenation and back pain:

“The diaphragm actually connects to the lower back, so by not using yours to breathe, your back is going to get injured or you’ll experience pain. There’s a lot of research showing that back pain makes your breathing shallow, which leads to more pain. You get into this vicious cycle.”

On the right (and wrong) way to breathe:

“Most people breathe vertically (up and down). Change that. Your shoulders shouldn’t move. Instead, inhales and expand, then exhale and contract. Your core will get much stronger.”

Snack On This:

A mantra to help you practice proper breathing form: “Breathe like your dog. Inhale expand, exhale squeeze.”

Watch Dr. Vranich explain how to correct your breathing:


Need to Calm Yourself Down? Try This Military-Approved Breathing Technique


Whether you’re dealing with co-worker chaos or pressure to perform on a project, it’s difficult to excel at work when you're extremely stressed. Can’t escape the office? Take a cue from real-life soldiers and try a technique called tactical breathing—also known as combat breathingfour-count breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing—to lower your heart rate and regain control of your breath.

“It’s one you can use when things are blowing up around you”—both literally and figuratively—“and you need to be able to stay calm,” explains clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich, who demonstrates a version of tactical breathing in Tech Insider’s video below.

Vranich is the author of 2016’s Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. Watch, learn, and—of course—inhale and exhale along with her until you feel zen enough to salvage the remainder of your workday.

How to Breathe for Optimal Health - Dr. Belisa

Why you should listen - 

All the stresses of our modern world has caused dysfunctional breathing patterns that affect our health. Dr. Belisa Vranich, a renowned clinical psychologist, public speaker and the author of Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. Dr. Belisa teaches how to breathe in an anatomically correct way that maximizes balanced inhales and exhales. 


Breathing coach and author of 5 books, Dr. Belisa sits down with Founder and CEO of Pure Green, Ross Franklin. Learn how to breathe properly for better performance.

Podcast with Dr. Belisa

Ross: On today's podcast we have a very special guest. She is a clinical psychologist; she's a public speaker the author of five books, the latest book is called breathe the simple revolutionary 14-day program to improve mental and physical health. We have Dr. Belisa on the show.

Dr. Belisa: Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Ross: Thank you so much for being here. It is such an honor to have you.

Dr. Belisa: Thank you.

Ross: So much to talk about with you.

Dr. Belisa: Bring it on, I’m excited.

Ross: This is so amazing! So you are best known as a breathing coach is that correct?

Dr. Belisa: Yeah it's funny because it's not really breath work and I'm not a respiratory physiologist. I'm sort of in the middle where I deal with the general public and how they breathe and how to get to breathe better. So it's not going to the hospital, and It's not a sort of like trance meditation it's really how we breathe every day all the time and making that better.

Ross: Wow it's so amazing, I have so many questions about that. You know I think just like the general public when they hear like a breathing coach they're like well I know how to breathe I do that naturally. Why is it important like when you're working with your clients when you're doing all this public speaking like why is it important to really learn how to breathe better?

Dr. Belisa: So most people don't say I know how to breathe, I mean their first immediate reaction is well yeah I breathe like it can get better, and then they start thinking about it. If I ask questions, they go well actually I don't breathe as well as I could. Yeah, I do run out of air I wish I could not you know gasp for breath when I'm working out compared to when I was younger yeah it's definitely not as good. So if they start really thinking about it, they say, well yeah actually I don't breathe as well as I'd like to and it does feel sort of stuck here, or I don't feel like I used to have that lung capacity like I did when I was younger. So when they stop and think about it, they think yeah I actually would like to breathe better if there was something for me to do, if in fact, my breathing is bad. So that's where I started with which is, is my breathing bad? So that notion that you have of I'm not sure if this is good I wanted to get a grade and that's where this whole method started.

Ross: Wow and I have zillion questions for you about this, but I think first can you tell us a little bit about your journey, like how did you get into this where did you start?

Dr. Belisa: My journey! Okay so I was a clinical psychologist for a long time about 20 years, and I did go, I would change jobs within psychology just because I like learning. Once I sort of maxed out on a job, I'd like to go on to the next one and see what else I can learn so sort of a vocational ADD education junkie. So my background is in child psychology, but it's specifically psychometrics so IQ testing. And I did Co-teach the Rorschach class when I was at NYU, and the Rorschach is of course you know the ink blots that you see… Anyways I co-taught in Wikipedia actually, I think it was Wikipedia don't want to blame them wrongly but once those cards and those images got out in public, we couldn't use them anymore because they were supposed to be something that people had our first impression about and then responded. Anyway, so I taught a row Shacket in NYU and did a lot of testing and really like neuron-psych. I did a rotation when I was on internship through the hospital for joint diseases in neuron-psych, so it was a lot of brain trauma, epilepsy, loved that kind of stuff.

All the way through the last year of the internship I decided like maybe I should stay and keep learning more and get an MD because I'm a psychologist. So my parents nixed that idea, but after that, I had a whole bunch of different jobs. I worked in a magazine called Jane magazine; I did a dream analysis column, I did a column for the New York Post where people would send me questions very Sex in the City type of job. I worked with violin ex-cons with HIV doing parole assessments, like you name it I’ve had pretty much every single job within psychology. Which just means I'm not scared of anything and I don't know a lot else outside of psychology so if we stick to psychology and breathing I'm okay. But I started dealing with my own stress, and I loved my yoga class, and actually, if I get into details, I was grinding my teeth. So I went to the dentist, and I found out that I was not only grinding them a little like I'm a type-A you know overachiever, so I was really grinding my teeth. So thousands of dollars you know bite play the whole nine yards, and so I had to look for something that was going to make me feel better that wasn't just you know a shot of tequila or a nap which is my go-to. So I looked at yoga breathing like the stuff they do in yoga which is a lot like the alternate nostril breathing that Hillary Clinton is in the news about. But I wanted more science behind it, and I wanted more exercises, so I kind of got into it and started looking all over the place all different breathing exercises. Like in the history of man what we have done that's interesting with our breathing, and I started teaching my own clinical patients. So I'd go in had an office on Central Park West, and I have patients with anxiety and depression I'd say well let's do some breathing, and they loved the breathing as they would actually feel better doing the breathing they started asking for it more. So that's where the transition started until it got to the point that I said you know what I'm always going to be a psychologist but I think I want to focus more on the breathing which is a connection between your mind and your body and your conscious and your unconscious. So it kind of I got into that like the flow of that, and it kind of took me away and here I am with you right now.

Ross: Wow that’s amazing. I'm curious you mentioned these ink blots and that kind of like that psychological component and how does that relate to breathing?

Dr. Belisa: Well, you know what it relates very specifically, and because the way you breathe can show how you're feeling, it can make you feel a different way if you change your breathing. So it really is the link between mind and body you were always talking about mind and body, and most people get the mind down, but they can't make the connection between them. I understand that I shouldn't be stressed and my body should calm down and that's just an example, or I understand intellectually that I have lack of closure, but somehow my heart still seems to be sad. And the breathe, breathing is actually the connection that brings those two together.

Ross: Wow! And so for people listening, what are some like for someone who's like very basic, maybe someone who's done, I think a lot of our listeners have taken yoga classes. What are some like basic enhancements to enhance performance through breathing? What are some basics that everyone can benefit from?

Dr. Belisa:  The very basic like if you take anything away or if you just want the cliff-notes for the book is that most people breathe up and down, okay. So you inhale you get a little taller, and you exhale you come down. When you see some pomp someone puffs up their chest and take a big breath and then exhale and kind of relax that's the kind of breath that we learn, that's the bad habit breath. It's nothing like the breath is anatomically congruous or like we used to take when we were kids not babies but kids. It's also a breath that looks completely different than every other animal on the planet. So we've taken a breath that was normal and turned it into this abnormal breathing which completely affects the rest of our bodies. So if you think about the fact that you inhale and sort of puff up the top of your body well yeah your neck and shoulders are going to hurt and yeah you're going to have acid reflux because you're not using your diaphragm to breathe you're using your shoulders.

Ross: That’s short breathing right? So it's pretty good that chest it's like short breathing.

Dr. Belisa: It's a short breathe it has to be a short breath. So if you breathe up and down with your shoulders or with the top of your body, you have the smallest part of your lungs up there. The densest and oxygen-rich are actually about a foot down on your body you know kind of between your nipples and your belly butt. That's where the biggest part of your lungs are, and it's not like filling up a glass of water where the bottom fills up first and then it goes up. Its air so it fills up at the top and then it goes to the bottom. So if you use your diaphragm to breathe, you're actually going to get a better breath, a more calming breath and you're going to use the right muscle. And that's what I come to is that you have to use the right muscles and people don't talk about muscles and breathing. When you think breathing, you think lungs; lungs don't do anything they kind of sit there. The muscles that pull in the air and then squeeze out there are the really the most important part.

Ross: Alright, So that's why like actors and dancers, what they teach us is to breathe through your stomach right? To really blow out your stomach and then breathe in?

Dr. Belisa: Yeah! So it's funny because they say blow out your stomach and breathe through your stomach but what that is that right above your belly is your diaphragm. So if you push your belly out your diaphragm has to expand by association, and then you get a better breath.

Ross: That’s the diaphragmatic breathing?

Dr. Belisa: Yes so your belly breath is a diaphragmatic breath. You can't take a diaphragmatic breath without popping out your belly, but that's an advanced move. But all of us who aren't breathing well if you pop your belly out your diaphragm is going to expand by association and no one has explained that to us. They keep saying take a belly breath, and we think A, I'm going look fat why would I do that B, isn't it going make me gassy? There's no C, so it's just A and B. I think those two things because it hasn't been well explained, that when you push your belly out your diaphragm which attaches right at your ribs goes along with it. So it's kind of a cheat to be able to take a good breath.

Ross: Yeah! I think you're right; I think a lot of people think oh if I'm doing that all the time I'm going to look fat, what you're saying that's healthy.

Dr. Belisa: That's healthy because if you actually and again the belly breath is the introductory breath. Eventually, you want to take a breath that goes all the way around your body, so your sides are going to flare out a little bit even your back will open up. So the kind of the perfect breath is one that goes all the way around your body, and you're not like popping your belly out like Santa Claus. In the beginning and again because I look at why did we unlearn this and how do we relearn it and you can't just go to a diaphragmatic breath from having had a vertical breath. You have to go really low, you have to think of your pelvic floor, and your hips and you have to take this really not so cute belly breath to kind of get your body to remember the way it used to breathe. So that's what's happening when you take the belly breath.

Ross: So is it possible to retrain yourself, to retrain your breathing to breathe healthier?

Dr. Belisa: Absolutely and that's what I do, and I always say that I'm not teaching you something new. The way I teach my method my system that's new, and it's because it comes from knowing how children learn. So, for instance, there are words I just did a teacher training there are words I don't let my teachers use. Don't say these words they're going to confuse people use these images because they're going to help people. So I'll give you a for instance when you're in medical school, and you learn about the diaphragm they keep talking about it like a plunger. All wrong because all you see when you see a plunger is up and down and I'm trying to teach people to breathe horizontally. So I use a vegetable steamer because if you take a vegetable steamer and you turn it upside down, it's actually a great example of a diaphragm where the edges spread out the middle does lower and go up and down. But what you really want to understand is it's in a good breath your body expands, and all you have to do is look at your dog, cat or kid to be able to remember that.

Ross: So for everyone listening without getting like too advanced or too into it, I guess they can come to one of your workshops or go to your website: What's your website by the way?

Dr. Belisa: My website is the, I'm super simple I would love to have some fancy name, but it just is the breathing class.


Dr. Belisa: Yeah!

Ross: So everyone can go there to get into more details but let’s together cover like some basics that people who are listening in to this can just try while they're listening in to us. What are some basics to retrain your breathing pattern? To breathe just for optimal performance?

Dr. Belisa: Great! So what I want you to do is actually if you're sitting because most of us sit way too much. So I want you to hold the bottom of your seat with your hands and actually stretch them, so you're really stretching your hands out so you can't possibly move your shoulders alright. And then what I want you to do is tip your hips so you're putting your belly on your lap like if you don't have a belly then just you know pop your belly and pretend you have one and just get as much belly as you can. If you have a belly you're probably sucking it in and what I want you to do is tip forwards, and it's sort of like if you know yoga because a lot of your listeners are Yogi's is that think about this as being seated cat-cow. So you have cat-cow on the floor you know put your cat in your cow in a chair, and I want you to tip forwards and let your belly go as if you're doing cow. Okay now on the exhale I want you to roll back your back is going to puff up as if you're that scary Halloween cat and you're going to exhale. So inhale come forwards and then holding the bottom of the seat exhale go back is just to keep your shoulders still. So sort of get yourself into a little pattern here where you're tipping forwards, you're letting your belly go, you're bumping your butt back, you have space at your lower back in your chair. And on the exhale I want you to roll back you're now a cap seated cat you're going to squeeze your belly good belly button to spine, inhale, tip forward, relax your body. So you should feel yourself going forwards and back, come on forwards and back Ross there we go. Inhale exhale squeeze back and really narrow, and the movement should be initiated at your hips, which feels totally weird but interesting right .and it'll start feeling more natural because now you're breathing with your hips which is where you should be breathing from. So the movement to breathe is not shouldered going up just puffing up, its tip forward, allow your body to expand, relax your gluteus, exhale, roll back, really squeeze and narrow your body. Inhale relax it, relax your gluteus, come away from the back of the chair, exhale, roll back, press the back of your chair and belly button goes towards your spine. What's really good to do when you're doing this, and you're trying to learn how to do it or relearn how to do it because you used to do it right is that you look down at your belly. so on the inhale I want to see it expand, put your hands on your belly like you have a hoodie on and you have your hands in your hoodie. Inhale let that expand and then on the exhale you just stick your fingers in your belly and try to squeeze your body and exhale, inhale belly on your lap and exhale back. At this point most people say through your nose or through your mouth so here's the rule. If this feels totally strange to you and for some people those who are paradoxical breathers this is going to feel odd okay. You're going to breathe through your mouth just until you learn it. Because I want you to hear, the breath on the inhale and on the exhale, because that way you'll notice when you're doing it wrong, if this already feels natural go to your nose, nose breathing is always better always in and out. You can go out through your mouth but at the very least do in through your nose. So inhale belly on your lap back comes away from the back of the chair and on the exhale to roll back squeeze get all that air out and feel your belly narrow. So that is a horizontal breath you don't go up and down at all. If you're breathing that way you're using your diaphragm and all kinds of amazing things, start falling into place and feeling better when you start breathing with your diaphragm.

Ross: And you're saying that this should be constant, this is how it should be all the time?

Dr. Belisa: Yes! Look at your dog, cat or any animal. Look at your five-year-old kid breath; they don't breathe with their shoulders. Your 10-year-old kid does, but any animal on the planet is breathing where the biggest part of their lungs are. So take your hands right now and put them right here yeah that's the biggest part of your lungs. Why would you be moving your shoulders to breathe it makes no sense at all.

Ross: That makes a lot of sense (yeah), so how do we condition to get this to be the norm because I think a lot of people think it's the part of the culture where people are short breathing, and they are breathing through their chest. How do we change that habit?

Dr. Belisa: Okay so two things are going to help you do this more than any other health habit because most health habits you try to pick up, it's hard. You're like you're running uphill to try to get this new healthy habit, and you're on your agenda. This one is easier it's more important, and it's easier than all the other ones, and the reason is because you used to breathe this way. So for some of us, we stopped breathing with a horizontal breath once life got complicated and we started sucking in our little guts and wearing waste bands or whatever the reason was. So it could have been when we were five or six that we stopped. For some of us, we kept breathing well until we were about 10 and you know all kinds of things happen. We started sitting a lot in school; dad was fighting at home you started bracing for the noise of the fighting. You fell off your skateboard you hurt a rib and then you started sucking in because you were trying to look like Superman or your dad or your mom you know it's sucking in their gut and being strong. So depending on when you stopped breathing right, You still have the memory somewhere there about breathing the right way because you used to right. And the other thing is your diaphragm wants to work, so you have this massive muscle that's totally on your side. And the only thing it wants if it could want something is to be able to expand your body on the inhale and narrow with your body on the exhale like that's the only reason this thing is in the middle of your body and it's huge. Think about it; it's like a skirt steak the size of a Frisbee. Like get that image in your body and now put that skirt steak like a Frisbee right in the middle of your body again between your nipples and your belly button and the reason it's there and most of us it’s completely still. Might move a little bit eek open a little on the inhale and kind of close a little bit on the exhale but the only reason it's there is because it really wants to expand your body on the inhale and narrow with your body on the exhale. So it already wants to do that, so you're just letting it do that.

Ross: Let me ask you something about Professional athletes, you would think athletes they know how to breathe right, they're on top of their game performing well. Now I understand you work with a lot of athletes so are most professional athletes breathing right or are you making a lot of corrections?

Dr. Belisa: No! They are not breathing right, so they are doing well because of talent because their cardio is fantastic, because they have so much help with everything else that they're doing. But to me, if you have someone who is a good athlete whether you're a professional athlete or not you're a good athlete but you don't work out your breathing muscle. Like how are you going to be if you start working out your breathing muscles? And that's why for me it's fascinating to get someone who's at the top of their game, and they've plateaued, and they ‘re saying you know what's that edge I can get on someone else or the other team or whatever? And I say do you work out your breathing muscles? And they don't, and I do my tests for breathing muscles, and I say you know what, this is excellent because your breathing muscles are weak. They're decent because they get the job done but your cardio is fantastic, you're super talented. So let's add a breathing muscle workout, let's get your breathing muscles to be strong, and you watch their endurance and their conditioning skyrocket. It's one of my favorite things to do is just to see that change because with athletes what happens is that once you teach them how to breathe this way they get obsessed you know because it feels right. They have such great some you know sensation about what's going on in their bodies is that you teach them as in a way that makes sense and they just get nuts with it practice it, and they see results you know from one day to the next.

Ross: Wow! So you're able to take athlete top of their game, not breathing right. You go through these exercises correct their breathing, their performance goes to the next level.

Dr. Belisa: Next level immediately! Really immediately and sometimes it’s that now your breathing actually plateaus at age 29. So if you have a young athlete, they're still kind of sliding on youth and even in their 30s, they're still sliding on youth. What happens if you want to play or compete you know into your and your breathing plateaued at 29 age, so you have to be doing breathing muscle exercises.

Ross: As you work the same way as you would, let's say a professional fighter versus someone who's an executive, and they just want to breathe better. Is it the same thing or is there a difference?

Dr. Belisa: There's a little bit of a difference because for instance if I'm working with someone who has the kind of movements they make our gross motor skills. So if it's someone who fights, so let's say it's MMA so they're on the ground they're standup like there's a lot of movement going on in a lot of different positions. And I'm working with someone, who let's say is a tattoo artist, I do the same assessment, and they do similar exercises, but their goals are different. So my fighter is going to want to be able to have better endurance be able to have their nervous system you know to be able to calm down quickly and then rev up quickly, be able to recover from one day to the next as well super important. My tattoo artist wants to be able to very still and be able to stay focused and alert awake and be able to make very tiny movements. It’s the same with an aesthetician, a surgeon, a golfer a pool player, like anybody who's making tiny movements, a photographer, a sniper. So although the exercises are similar what we practice is very different.

Ross: Very cool! The other thing I wanted to ask you is, I know aside from the breathing classes and workshops you're also into CBD oil and that's something relevant for me because it's very cutting edge, it's big in LA, and it's making its way to New York. I'm thinking about doing some product development with CBD oil maybe combining it with some juices but can you talk about that?

Dr. Belisa: Sure! So I like what's going on with CBD oil or hemp oil, or you know the medical marijuana community if you want to call it that. It is that if you develop it and gear it and make it specific to helping with pain or helping with anxiety, it could be a terrific add-on to any therapy that you're doing, obviously very controlled. And what they're doing right now scientifically with the dosing is super specific, so it's not just some people that are scared of it or are skeptical think that you're going to get really high and you're going to do crazy things and that it's not controlled. It's just as controlled or more controlled than a lot of other things that we take very haphazardly. So I've seen great results and again this is a new industry where someone has pain, where they are trying to get off opioids, or they are trying not to take them, and that's a huge if we can help in that with that problem that's tremendous. I have people who have anxiety usually a lot of PTSD where it just helps bring the anxiety down a tiny bit so that then you can use other coping mechanisms and learn other things to keep yourself calm. And then there's you know incredible research going on how it helps with the side effects of cancer medication and Parkinson's and all kinds of other diseases. So I see it as a really interesting place, and I'm looking forward to seeing what more science comes out of it.

Ross: And just sort of listeners understand the CBD oil contains no THC; no-one's going to get high from it right?

Dr. Belisa: No! You're not going to get high from it, I think there's from what I understand and what I've seen is that there are combinations. There's CBD that has a little bit of THC which doesn't mean you get high and if you want to get high, I mean there are other things you can do. If you're looking at CBD oil for the pain, it's probably because you're suffering because you're in pain and what the medications-that we have for pain right now are not good. They're just like you get addicted very quickly and coming off of them is really hard, and a lot of people are experiencing this. So if you want a combination of a little bit of THC with CBD to help calm you that works as well. But there is no like getting giddy happy, taking your clothes off, running down the street naked, that just doesn't happen. There are plenty of other recreational drugs to do this, this is scientifically tested very specific dosages, and you take it carefully see what dose works for you with your physician, and there are some really great results. I'm really interested in seeing where it goes.

Ross: Wow! Yeah, I'm thinking like three to five years, it's going to be a lot more mainstream. I'm looking at the CBD oil that has no THC to see if we can put that in some of the juice and I'm pretty sure because there are some other brands out there that started it. I know it's a tea company that's doing it there doesn't seem to be anything illegal about it. If it does have the THC in there that's a different story right?

Dr. Belisa: I think that you know the rules are really up in the air right now from one state to another and we have to get more open-minded because the results that we're seeing scientifically are fantastic. Now, for instance, I'm thinking about someone I work with, I do a lot of pro bono work in Alabama, and he can't get anything at all there because you have to have been diagnosed with grandma seizures by a doctor in the state. They're very against anything hemp, CBD, THC completely blanket completely closed-minded about it. And it’s sad because this guy is on a ton of sleeping medications, a ton of anti-anxiety medications, and a ton of opioids to help him where I'm sure that he could benefit from CBD or CBD THC combo. He could still be completely functional much better much happier and not be addicted to all these other things that are just keeping him at bay; they're not really healing him. So the laws from state to state now are very different from one state to another, but you can just get CBD for sure. Yeah, you can.

Ross: Very cool I'm excited to you know start some formulations with that.

Dr. Belisa: Yeah! That would be great.

Ross: One other thing I want to ask you is we're all about bio-hacking, and you're involved in so many different things. What are some tips, some strategies that you can give to our listeners? Like what's your everyday like? If you look at your daily routines, what are some of your daily routines that you do that help give you an edge for performance, for breathing and just overall health in general?

Dr. Belisa: If I just say my bio-hack it really has to do with the breathing because you can combine three things with breathing. You can take care of your pelvic floor get a big breath and oxygenate and balance your body. Because it's not about more oxygen that's a complete myth, it's about the balance of oxygen, and CO2 get your parasympathetic system to kick in all with one thing which is taking the right breath. And it doesn't have to be two hours of meditation, you can do 30 seconds of breathing, and it can affect your pelvic floor and your hips which we all want that to be safe and healthy rather putting yourself into a parasympathetic state. I mean you can have awesome candles and mantras and all kinds of visualization, but if you're not breathing with the lower body horizontal breath, you're not going to be fully in a parasympathetic state. And then if you're breathing right again you're going to be able to balance your CO2 and your oxygen, and that's where your body wants to be. The hacks that happen from there it's actually like an awesome bio hack because if you're doing those three things for those three, reasons, there's a secondary thing that happens there's a ripple. So the ripple is that your acidity gets balanced. So if you're taking, if you're doing good breathing your acidity actually neutralizes whether you're too alkaline or you're too acidic. So kind of amazing you can actually help your acidity by breathing right. Now you should stop eating fast foods as well but a lot of the acidity or the being too alkaline is caused by breathing patterns that are that are dysfunctional. So if you change your breathing, you're going to change your acidity. If you're using that lower body breath with your diaphragm, you're also going to be supporting a healthy back, and healthy digestion and I do mean acid reflux as well. So it's an amazing bio-hack 30 seconds a lower-body breath where you're really expanding and really contracting and squeezing good for your core good for your mind good for your body.

Ross: So the exercise you walked us through earlier just doing that for how many breaths every morning?

Dr. Belisa: Do ten breaths as often as you can throughout the day, or you might do two breaths every time you're waiting for something. So you don't have to have this huge workout with gadgets and all these things you really just every time you're going to check your text which is going to be you know eight million times a day because we all look at our text eight million times a day. Just pause because it's probably going to be the same thing on there and take two breaths before you check your text or take two breaths before you hit the button on the elevator or cross the street or just find the one thing that you do a lot and make sure you take two breaths before you do it and that's it. And what's funny that if you take those two breaths throughout the day, you will sleep better at night hands down. So put together again bio-hack is that you take two breaths it may take you a couple of seconds you do that. It takes you ten times a day maybe it's a minute or two minutes tops; you will sleep better at night. And it's just because our stress is just so high all the time and if you take those two breaths and de-stress yourself even it's for a couple of seconds at night when you're going to go to sleep, you can actually turn off better.

Ross: Wow that's amazing. I love it. Alright, so we got the breathing hack, anything else any other hacks?

Dr. Belisa: No! You don't even need any hack after that. Drink juice.

Ross: I love it. Awesome! Well, thank you so much for being on the show this was amazing.

Dr. Belisa: Thank you.

Ross: And I'm definitely I have my work cut out for me

Dr. Belisa: Thanks for having me, this is great.

Ross: Awesome, Thank you!

Learning the Right Breathing Techniques with Dr. Belisa Vranich

Learning the Right Breathing Techniques with Dr. Belisa Vranich

We all know that we need to breathe to live. But are you aware that most of us do not know how to breathe properly? Well, you’re in luck today because I got Dr. Belisa Vranich, a breathing expert who will teach us proper breathing techniques that have significant health benefits.



For how seldom we tend to think about breathing, it plays a profound role in our health—which is something Dr. Belisa Vranich, a psychologist turned renowned breathing educator, has thought about a lot. “Changing your breath truly does affect—immediately—the body, mind, and soul,” she says. “And, most important, the impact takes place at the cellular and muscular levels.”