Just Breathe with Dr. Belisa

By Tricia Williams

Recently, I sat down with Belisa Vranich, PsyD, who is a very well-known clinical psychologist, author, and public speaker on the topic of something you and I do each minute of every day: breathing.

Speaking with Dr. Belisa was an incredible experience. I could see why she is not only a regular guest on national television, but also a five-time published author. I also recommend The Breathing Class to anyone who’s able to attend.

Here’s are some snippets from our conversation:

What is breathing by your definition? 

Oxygen is the fuel for our cells, so by breathing, you fuel yourself at a cellular level.

Breathing massages your entire body from the inside out. You can also do breathing exercises in place of a workout. Injured athletes, for example, use breathing exercises to stay in shape and quicken their personal oxygenation and healing.

How does breathing affect our heath? 

Breathing is the most important pillar of your health. You can only live a few minutes without air. Interestingly enough, right now, most of us are running on fumes. We are seriously under-breathing, and it’s really affecting our quality of life.

Is there a certain way we should be breathing before, during, and after we eat to promote a healthier body? 

You should be breathing with your breathing muscles: your diaphragm and abdominals, especially your obliques. Most people use their neck and shoulder muscles when they breathe, which is why so many people have such neck and shoulder discomfort. When you breathe right, your whole body moves – from your pelvic floor up.

You mentioned breathing helps people sleep better. Does that also help people not crave caffeine since they are more rested? 

After a breathing workout, folks notice that they are simultaneously relaxed and recharged. They feel alert but calm. It’s the perfect place to be: You feel like you can think clearly, but you don’t feel stressed. That’s the advantage of breathing with your lower body: You get more oxygen, and you aren’t constantly taxing your body and brain. Because you aren’t always in “fight and flight” mode, better sleep comes naturally.

Caffeine is an attempt to buy more energy. Instead, we should be fueling ourselves with something that is right under our noses that’s natural and effective.

Can you share a breathing break for the 3:00 pm work slump? 

Take a mini-break and close your eyes. Then, do a counting breath (also called a breathing isometric): This means 4 counts to inhale, 4 counts hold, 6 counts exhale, and two counts hold. Make sure you are inhaling and expanding your middle, and exhaling and contracting. Keep your eyes closed.

If you want to add a round of Exhale Pulsations – short sharp exhales, do 25 right after that. Then, get moving!

Anything else we should know? 

Better breathing can quickly and effectively solve gastrointestinal problems like constipation, irritable bowels, and acid reflux. More oxygen better breaks down nutrients in your body. Plus, when you use your diaphragm to breathe, you massage your liver, intestines and stomach.