Good health is something we should strive for, and vanity is a great motivator.
The days you feel great, you also look awesome. You take the time and put forth the effort to look your best. How you feel on the inside shows on the outside. The same is true when you experience chronic pain or stress. Tension shows in your facial expressions and posture, and affects your breathing and eating.
My clients soon learn that when they eat better, they feel better. I have expressed to some clients that I no longer see the look of pain in their face. They usually answer, "Others have told me that, too." Up until this revelation, they never realized that they spent each day feeling and looking tense.
I also teach my clients to take a deep breath when they are faced with adversity. I ask them to smile as they exhale, continue until they can smile, and repeat as needed. They realize they cannot feel badly and have a smile on their face simultaneously. This practice allows them to relax and change their state. It gives them time to re-frame their thinking, rather than mindlessly overeat when faced with an outside stress.
"More than that," explains Elaine Petrone, program director at Sarner Health and Fitness Institute at Stamford Hospital, and author of The Miracle Ball Method, "Deep breathing is a way to look and feel thinner. Many people restrict their breathing when faced with adversity, causing them to physically hold onto the outside stress. When we improve our breathing our body will react differently. Often when you are stressed you inhale, restrict muscles, and become tense. You need to learn to exhale fully."
A simple example is when you are seated in a theater watching a thriller. The actors purposely bring you to a state of fright. Your instinct is to gasp and hold your breath -- you remain tense as the scene unfolds. This same phenomenon also happens when you experience stress in life. You inhale, your muscles contract, and if you don't release or exhale deeply, your body remains tense and will physically hold on to the stress. Over time you can begin to exhibit the symptoms of chronic pain. You will feel anxious, and it can affect the way you eat.
Petrone teaches her clients to exhale by making an "S" sound, challenging their diaphonic muscles to work. She claims, "Exhaling releases the muscle tension allowing you to release stresses in the body." While most rely on deep breathing, she believes the healthy side of breathing is in the exhale. She explains that our body will inhale naturally, but we must practice exhaling deeply to relax muscles and release tension.
"Think of it as a man whose collar and tie are too tight," Petrone suggests. "The collar signifies the contracted muscle. The man is stiff and uncomfortable, just as our bodies become in times of stress. Once the man loosens his tie and unbuttons his collar, he feels free. The same happens when you exhale. Exhaling allows the muscles to relax so you no longer physically hold the tension. You permit yourself to be free of the stresses that could be the root of chronic pain or excess weight."
Deep breathing followed by deep exhaling can:
- Improve circulation
- Increase metabolism/calorie burning
- Improve energy levels
Deep breathing will help you realign your body and elongate your spine, helping you to hold yourself upright and appear thinner. When you breathe fully, stress and tension will subside, as will your desire to overeat. Both your inside feelings and outward appearance will continue to improve.
When you feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside.