Tool #3 Breath Walking

If the way in you think, feel, and act are not supportive of your goals then you’ve got to course correct. This is an extremely effective way that you can do that, by changing the three variables that constitute your mental state: Focus, Physiology and Language. You can use it to drastically change your state in a matter of minutes.

Focus

That is what we focus on. Are we focused on a problem? Are we focused on what’s not working out in a given situation. Do we remain focused on something that is making us angry? What if instead we change our focus and put our mind towards a solution? The first step to change our focus is to become aware of where it’s at right now or in a challenging situation.

Physiology

Emotional states are reflected in our body: how we’re breathing, holding and moving our body, speaking. It matters a lot how we use our body. In the case of breath-walking this means how we’re walking. We can consciously affect our physiology if we choose to.

Language

The words and phrases that we use. These are the questions we ask ourself in our head. If we ask: “Why am I always procrastinating?” – this put’s the focus on the problem. Then we might use negative language and say discouraging words to ourself – this pulls our focus in a certain direction. Questions guide focus. The resulting emotional state then finds expression in our body (physiology/bodylanguage).

This is how a state is created. Now if we want to change our state then we can do so by changing these variables.

Breath Walking

A certain state has momentum. Imagine a massive round boulder half the size of your body on a flat surface: It’s very heavy, but it’s completely round. Now you want to move that rock. You start pushing it. You push with all your strength, but it’s very hard in the beginning. You push all you can but it just doesn’t budge. But you don’t budge either so finally, at a certain point, it starts moving. It’s the same with emotional states. Sometimes you have to keep going at it. You have to keep attempting to change your state and at some point the negativity just evaporates and the a new state appears. Then you can use that more resourceful state to do what you initially intended. If you regularly change your state then you can recondition yourself and changing your state will become easier and the old pattern will get weaker and weaker.

So don’t give up if initially your attempt to make a shift does not yield a result. Just keep at it. You have to do it for 5 or even 10 minutes – depending on what your state at the beginning was and how much engagement you bring to the activity. But you will notice a change eventually.

Walking

Start with the way you are walking. You want to walk in a way that’s strong and empowered. You can do it at home if you have some space, but it’s great to do it outside. Walk in a way where you’re upright and your shoulders can release and drop. Relax your back and allow your head to rise. Get a firm stance on the ground and connect with your feet and the floor. Try to really feel your heels. If you’re outside you can get on your toes and let your heels fall on the floor to get a feel. You can also stomp a little bit to feel your feet and connection with the ground. This can help you to ease into a more confident way of walking. Walk in a way that for you expresses confidence. You can also take big steps and take up some space with your body and this is going to help you to change your emotional state quickly.

Tapping & Breathing

With your thumb now touch your index, middle, ring and little finger and then again start at your index finger. This way you’ll cycle through your fingers one by one – with both hands at the same time, symmetrically. Now with each touch you’ll take a partial breath – so four partial in-breaths through your nose followed by four partial out-breaths through the mouth. Watch my video to get a live demonstration of this if it is unclear. You can also do this breathing exercise without the walking, but combining it with walking is more effective. Now as you sync the breathing and tapping with walking you take one step for each partial in-breath. Find your own rhythm that feels just right for you.

Incantations

You can do a gentle affirmation in your mind to accompany the breathwalking. See that you actually feel what you are saying and do it with conviction, otherwise it’s not going to have much effect. Anthony Robbins teaches that an incantation is like an affirmation, but with conviction and emotion. Here are a two good ones that you can sync to your breathing:

  • “Every – day – in every – way – I’m feeling – better – and better – yes” (8 counts)
    You can use “more and more confident/healthy/inspired”, “getting healthier and happier, getting more and more disciplined) whatever state you want to cultivate. Say it out loud in your head while you are walking, breathing and tapping.
  • All I – need is – within me – now (4 counts, so repeat 2 times)

This has a huge effect on your state. It’s going to take a little time but once you ease into it your state is going to shift drastically. Remember to walk in a way where you are feeling confident, centered, grounded and do the tapping because this activates your body as there are many nerves on the ends of your fingers. It’s a different stimulus that can help you to enter a new state of mind. If you’ve been in a stuck-state and you do something new then you are changing your focus and get unstuck – even if it’s something simple like tapping your fingers. You’re giving your brain something new to focus on, the tapping and confident walking which is synced to your breathing and those inspiring incantations in your mind. You’re affecting your focus, language and physiology. This will work quicker than you think. It’s very easy to do this and also very enjoyable.

I hope this was helpful and I encourage you to get a feel for this. Do it at home or somewhere you are comfortable doing it (it’s rather discrete anyways) – maybe on your way home from work or on your way to the subway. You can only do the breathing and tapping alongside the incantations and it’s still going to be helpful. However when you start to walk in an empowering manner then you will quickly begin to feel more centered, confident and positive. Not only that but you can increase your performance, charisma or well-being. Once you’ve learned how to do it then you have a great little tool to change your state when you need to. You can also use this to recondition yourself over the long term, by regularly practicing it each morning. Your body and mind flow towards habits. Practice makes perfect.

Tool #2 Relaxation Breath

Today I want to share a very effective and simple breathing exercise for effortlessly bringing more balance and relaxation into your life. We go through varying levels of tension and relaxation throughout our life. Tension manifests in our body through the function of our autonomous nervous system, more precisely the sympathetic nervous system. Relaxation on the other hand manifests through its counterpart, the parasympathetic nervous system. “Stress” is actually a very natural function and an asset, if it is balanced with sufficient periods of rest and digest activity. It is then we speak of a balance of the autonomous nervous system. This can be measured by the variable of heart rate variability.

When our sympathetic nervous system is chronically over-stimulated then we have a problem on our hands. Now via the breath we can effectively trigger the parasympathetic nervous system response. We can directly affect our physical and mental/emotional state. How regulating our breath affects our body is scientifically researched. It’s all around our culture and has become a great trend – be it with yoga, which also incorporates breathing patterns, or modern “breath meditations”. All these things are great and they work – provided that you consistently do them. The technique I share here is extremely simple and easy to do so there really can be no excuses. It can be done in a matter of a few minutes, wherever you are. It’s simple and very effective for relaxing your body. It happens by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” response, via stimulating the vagus nerve. It also allows you to take in more oxygen, which you might have been deprived off through shallow breathing or high stress levels.

Breathing Exercise

Begin by taking in a deep breath. As you do this notice where your breath is flowing. Are you breathing into your chest? Are your shoulders lifting? Or are you breathing more into the lower parts of your lungs, your belly, lower chest and on the lower back? Many of us have developed a habit of shallow breathing. Children know how to breathe naturally and deeply into their belly. Shallow breathing is related to states of tension and danger. It’s fine when we breathe in this way when there actually is immediate danger or a challenging situation – but if we stay in a stressful state and maintain shallow breathing for too long then problems are brewing.

Now in the video I drew a glass being filled with water. The water fills the glass from the bottom up. When we breathe like this then we can get much more air into our lungs than if we superficially try to press air into our chest. We can allow our diaphragm to gently expand and our lung to fill from the bottom up. You can feel the difference. This way we get much more air into our lung and take in more oxygen. In addition deep belly breathing stimulates our vagus nerve and we can use it to consciously relax.

Breathing through the nose is quite important as the air gets cleaner and breathing out is slower so you can absorb more oxygen than via mouth-breathing. If you habitually breathe through your mouth you should do some reading on this and consider switching to nose-breathing.

  • Now put one hand on your belly and place your feet flat on the floor so you have a good stance. Let your head rise and sit comfortably relaxed and upright. Now imagine that you are filling your lungs, like a glass of water, from the bottom up with air. Remember to breathe through your nose. Fill your lower belly, down into your groin area, to the back of your lungs and up to the abdomen. Fill your lungs from the bottom up all the way to the chest. Don’t push it into your upper chest so that your shoulders rise – focus your breathing on the lower parts of your lungs and let it rise from the bottom up. Do this for 5 seconds on the in-breath, filling your lungs gently and expanding them. Don’t press the air in but do make a little effort to breathe deeply and fill your lungs. Also try to breathe into the back (explore where you can actually put air into!)
  • Hold the breath gently (don’t press) for 2 seconds
  • Breathe out for 5 seconds through your nose by relaxing. Don’t push the air out but let your lungs “collapse”. Don’t try to push all the air out, just breathe out gently.
  • Now again hold for 2 seconds (your lungs now being somewhat empty).
  • Then again breathe in for 5 seconds.

Repeat this process for 6 deep breaths in total.

This is a very strong and effective practice. Don’t underestimate it because it’s so simple. It quickly refreshes and restores your body and mind to a higher state of functioning. It helps dissolve excess stress and to find your center. This is something you can do anywhere. You can do it at home, on the subway or during work. Once you get the hang of it you can even do it while walking. I’ve done another video on progressive muscle relaxation which is not really suitable to be done in public. This breathing exercise is completely discreet. You can do it anywhere and nobody will notice it – except you who is going to feel its positive effect! I practice conscious breathing for a few minutes every day. It has a great effect on the body and mind and helps a lot with managing stress and restoring balance. In addition you will develop more awareness for your breathing patterns and thus gain control over your habitual patterns of tension.

Commit to try it a few times in the coming days (do it once a day when you are commuting for example). This way you’ll store it to memory and you’ll remember it when you need it. You’ll know first-hand of its positive effect.

Tool #1 Progressive Muscle Relaxation

I want to share a very simple and powerful relaxation technique with you. It is effective in two ways:

  1. Developing awareness for bodily stress. By tensing up all the muscles in our body and then relaxing them we explore the two extremes of full tension and complete relaxation of the muscles our body. This helps us to develop awareness for how it actually feels when our muscles are really relaxed.
  2. As an Emergency Tool. It is extremely effective if you are feeling really tense, worried, are having a challenging day or something threw you off. If you have only a few minutes to really relax and calm down before you need to move on – this technique is very strong and always delivers.

A lot of us go through the day holding a lot of tension in our body without knowing it. We’ve become accustomed to these tensions and often only notice the negative consequences of accumulated stress when it is too late (when we can’t fall asleep at night). By the way that is a situation where progressive muscle relaxation can work wonders! First mental tension manifests in our body and later this tension feeds back negatively into our mental and emotional state. You may well remember the last time you had really tense shoulders or a painful back. If we use tools like this one to release stress that has become physically manifest in our body then we can significantly increase our productivity and quality of life. We also become more pleasant company for others. Now if you watch my video you can see me going through the steps. You can also hear my voice change and get a little bit deeper and more relaxed. This tool is great for freeing up your voice from tension and nervousness before a presentation or speech and can give you better vocal projection. As the tissues in your body are relaxed they start to resonate with your voice and your voice becomes louder.

I’ll describe the process to you. Read through it once and then give it a try, it takes about 5 minutes at most. It’s not important that you follow everything to the letter, the main thing is that you go through all muscle groups one-by-one, tense up all muscles in that group, hold this tension for 10 seconds and then release and feel the relaxation for ten seconds. At the end you tense up all the muscles in your body (by adding the muscle groups in the same sequence) and then relax completely.

Face
Start by tensing up all the muscles in your face. Eyebrows, lips, cheeks, Eyelids. Tense every little muscle you can find and then hold that tension for ten seconds. Now release the tension and relax your face completely. Again count to ten and feel the relaxation in your face.

Shoulders & Arms
Hands, upper arms, lower arms, shoulders, the back and front of your shoulders, on the inside – tense all muscles you can find. Now hold for 10 and then relax and feel the relaxation for 10 seconds.

Chest & Abdomen
Tense your chest on both sides, all of your abdomen all the way to the inside, see that you find every little muscle and tense it up. Again hold for 10 seconds and then let all tension go and feel the relief.

Back
Upper back, lower back. Inside and outside – tense the whole breadth of your back. Hold for 10 and then relax and feel into the relaxation for 10 seconds.

Hips & Butt
Front, back and on the inside, all around your hip joint. Tense your bottom and every muscle you can find in that area. Now hold for 10 seconds, relax and really feel the relaxation.

Legs & Feet
Thighs, calves, around your knees, your feet and curl up your toes (carefully).

Whole body
Now go through all the areas again broadly. Face, shoulders & arms, chest & abdomen, back, hips & butt, legs & feet. Tense up your whole body and hold the tension for 10 seconds. Then let it all go for the last time. Take a few minutes to feel into the deep relaxation and release in your body. Remember this state.

You can do this anytime you need a quick relaxation. You can also do it lying down. Over time it’s going to help you to develop awareness for how much tension there is in your body. Once you notice excess tension you can start relaxing it. This is going to make you a lot more productive and balanced. Commit to use it a few times in the coming days (do it once a day when you come home from work for example). This way you’ll actually store it to memory and it’s going to be available when you need it. You’ll know first-hand of its efficacy.