Month: June 2021



I think of breathing in two different ways, after we acknowledge that breathing is mandatory for life and air always enters into the lungs.

#1: I use breath in a way that helps me to harness my reflexive core in exercise or to manage load.

#2: I use breathing as a practice when lying down or seated to manage my mind/body connection. This is better known as stress management or meditation.

Breathing for Core Strategy or Load Management

Air enters your body automatically because of pressure differences between the atmosphere and your internal body. By virtue of this automatic flow of air into your body, you need to increase volume somewhere to accommodate the incoming air.

This shape change is what we call breathing. We can change shape in our ribs and our chest as well as our stomach. The artful design of our body created the lungs to take in the air and they happen to live in our ribs which are designed to expand.

On the other hand, our stomach expands with increased food content. But if our abdomen expands when we take air into our lungs, it is really a bulge because no air actually changes the volume of the stomach. Think about a water balloon and how if you squeeze it, the rest of the balloon pushes out. Essentially that is what is happening on a belly breath. The ribs tighten so the belly can jut out.

Hopefully, it makes sense now that optimal breathing for movement and exercise utilizes mostly the movement of the ribs, which are designed to expand. The overflow of pressure then moves into the belly. 

When you expand your ribs to breathe, you do not push down into your core. Nor into your pelvic floor. However, when you belly breathe, you do push down and out because of simple body mechanics. 

Is a yoga belly breath bad? No, I enjoy lying on my back and allowing more shape change in my tummy as part of relaxation. Would I belly breathe when doing a goblet squat? A FIRM NO!

Find out how to assess your breathing and breathe for optimal core and pelvic floor health during Sarah’s free Short and Sweet webinar on July 15, 2021.

Breathing for Meditation or Stress Management

Breath work was my entryway into meditation. I found guided meditations difficult and distracting, but breath work kept my mind on my body and allowed for meditation to occur. There is a lot of good scientific research now on the power of meditation of any kind to lower stress levels and blood pressure levels, in addition to helping patients recover from trauma.

Let’s look at some of my favorite breath work guides.

Ana Lilia

Ana suffered from various stress related symptoms until she discovered breath work. She became a certified breath coach and has guided thousands of people to connect with their breath. Her healing journeys include music and guidance. I have enjoyed her free breath work offers and you may as well. She has been featured on NBC news, BravoTv, the LA Times, and Harpers Bazar.

Tai Hubbart

Tai says “For the majority of my early life I struggled with depression, and for over a decade, I suffered with chronic headaches. While I was able to remain high-functioning professionally in the Advertising & Design industry, I had little capacity to enjoy life, and spent the majority of my resources trying to track down the root of my dis-ease and simply feel better.

“In 2009, I decided to leave my corporate position and take a life/healing sabbatical in which I could listen more deeply and redirect my life’s compass.” She leads group breath work sessions, and one-on-ones. In the breath work section of her website you can enjoy a 28-minute introduction to breath work.

Annalise Sullivan

Annalise Sullivan is a writer, energy reader, and autonomy activist. In addition to her academic achievements in sociology and social work, Annalise has spent over a decade honing her methods as a breath work facilitator, intuitive guide, and NARM trained trauma-informed practitioner.

Annalise offers a breadth of techniques and resources to support you on your healing journey. I appreciate Annalise’s reasonably priced group breath work experiences on Zoom.

Rohi Coustage and Energy of Breath School

I experienced a true breakthrough when I practiced gamma breath with Rohi Coustage. She offers this description: Breathing into Gamma is a great daily practice, from a few one-minute breaths throughout the day to longer practices.

This brings us to a baseline Gamma state and all our life reflects upgrades into a higher energy state with unlimited fulfilling outcomes in whichever area we choose to focus our breath. Cultivating our gamma state leads to the unlocking of our higher sensory abilities, the development of our higher brain processing power, total manifestation power, and the evolution into our Light Bodies as we enter this era of accelerated consciousness evolution and next level awareness.

Two Types of Breaths to Try

A Basic Gamma Breath

Breathe deep – 3 seconds to inhale, 3 seconds to exhale, following this sequence:





Do 3 sets of the above and finish with:


Then relax and tune in for a few moments to the effects.

Square Breath

Advice from Navy Seals: The military has found square breathing to be the best technique for on-the-go stress management. Although they teach many types of breath in the military, the Huberman Lab has worked with the military and revealed in a podcast recently that square breathing is their go-to technique for maintaining equilibrium in stress filled environments.





Repeat for at least 3 rounds.

What have you noticed about your breathing? Is it deep or shallow? Belly or ribs? Have you tried doing meditation? Which breathing technique do you use? Please comment below.

The benefits of sunlight in the morning, and why you should go outside when you wake up


The benefits of sunlight in the morning, and why you should go outside when you wake up

Feel less stressed and sleep better with this simple morning tip. 

Getting a decent night’s sleep, maintaining low stress levels and eating well are three fundamental ways to feel good. Despite how obvious that might sound, those three elements are out of reach for so many of us. Research by Formulate Health found that 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep, while 74% of people have felt stressed to the point of being overwhelmed, according to the Mental Health Foundation – and that was before the pandemic

But what if there was a simple way to feel more relaxed and rested? According to Dr Andrew Huberman, tenured Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine, the answer could lie in what you do as soon as you wake up. 

“I started walking for an hour every day before breakfast – here’s how it improved everything”

On his podcast, Huberman Lab, Dr Huberman says that “what we do in the waking state determines when we fall asleep, how quickly we fall asleep, whether or not we stay asleep, and how we feel when we wake up the next day.” The key to setting up your body for a good day is getting outside within the first hour of your morning. 

It’s all to do with the chemical reactions that happen from being exposed to the sun, namely the rise and fall of cortisol and melatonin. “There’s a healthy rising tide of cortisol that happens early in the day… it makes you feel alert, it makes you feel able to move and want to move throughout your day for work for exercise, school, social relations, etc. But it also sets off a timer in your nervous system that dictates when a different hormone, called melatonin, which makes you sleepy, will be secreted,” Dr Huberman explains. 

The levels of these hormones are set by neurons in our eyes which are activated by “a particular quality of light and amount of light,” he says. “When we wake up, our eyes open. If we’re in a dark room, there isn’t enough light to trigger the correct timing of this cortisol and melatonin rhythm. [At day break], when the sun is low in the sky, there’s a particular contrast between yellows and blues, [and that] triggers the activation of the [cortisol]. Once the sun is overhead, the quality of life shifts so that you miss this opportunity to time the cortisol pulse.

“Those of you who are night owls, and insist that you’re a night owl, may very well have those genes that make you want to stay up late and wake up late. But chances are, half of you who think that you’re night owls are just not getting enough sunlight early in the day.”

Should you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day?


“A late shifted cortisol pulse is a consequence and/or a cause of a lot of anxiety disorders and depression,” says Dr Huberman. While “it’s kind of a chicken egg thing” and researchers can’t be sure on cause and effect, those who have cortisol spikes later in the day, rather in the morning, tend to have poorer mental health

“Bringing that cortisol pulse earlier in your wakeful period has positive benefits, ranging from [lowering] blood pressure to [improving] mental health,” Dr Huberman explains. “In fact, it’s fair to say that light – particularly sunlight – is 1,000 to 10,000 times more effective than say, getting up in darkness and just exercising.”

That’s not to say that working out in a dark studio in the morning won’t help you feel good – exercise is useful for the body’s circadian rhythm but light still remains the most important factor. Combining the pair can be the best way to improve your wakefulness, which might mean taking your training outside for a morning run, or simply walking to your gym rather than getting the bus so you can take in more light.

Two women in yoga clothes sitting on a yoga mat at sunrise.
Morning sunshine: light and exercising can help your cortisol.


“If you can’t see sunlight because of your environment then you are going to have to opt for artificial light,” says Dr Huberman. “In that case, you’re going to want an artificial light that either simulates sunlight, or has a lot of blue light.”

That doesn’t mean just scrolling through Instagram, as your phone and laptop won’t produce enough brightness to be effective. Instead, Dr Huberman suggests a sunlight stimulators or, even better, “the ring lights that people use for selfies” as these generate a lot of blue light.”

He also goes on to advise that it’s “50 times less effective to view the sunlight through a window” and that being outside with no glasses on is important. But, that doesn’t mean you should put your eyesight at risk in the pursuit of sunlight. “You don’t want to gaze at the sun or refuse to blink,” he says. You shouldn’t “find that your eyes are watering or [you’re] having challenges maintaining looking at this something for a while.”

What is cortisol and how can exercise impact levels of the hormone?


This totally depends on how much light you’re exposed to. For example, if it’s a bright day with no cloud cover you’ll have a lot of “photon light energy arriving on your retina, so it probably only takes 30 to 60 seconds to trigger the central clock and set your cortisol and melatonin rhythms properly.” 

However, for those who live in low-light areas or during the UK’s winter, “you probably are not getting enough sunlight in order to set these rhythms, so it will take longer… anywhere from two to 10 minutes of sunlight exposure is going to work well for most people.”

Dr Huberman recommends downloading the app Light Metre, which measures the photon energy in your environment. You should be aiming for anywhere between 10,000 to 50,000 Lux (a unit of light measurement) for the best cortisol spike, he says. 

How to reduce stress levels

In its simplest form, stress can manifest in temporary feelings of frustration and hopelessness, but in its severest form, it can become something a lot more sinister, affecting your work and social life, and even developing into depression.

Unfortunately, feelings of stress are often inevitable, especially with the ever changing times we currently find ourselves in. The good news is that there are ways in which you can reduce your stress levels before they become too dangerous.

Develop a positive mind-set

Reducing your stress levels starts with a positive mind-set, and the willingness to try and change your situation. Health professionals know that doing this isn’t as straightforward as reading a few inspirational quotes – it will take a concerted effort over time.

Try writing down three things at the end of each day that made you happy, which were a success or that you are grateful for. You may find that this brief shift in perspective becomes more infectious, and feeds into your normal mind-set. It’s also good practice to examine your habits and attitude and identify anything that could be causing unnecessary stress. For example, your deadlines might be stressful because of your tendency to procrastinate, rather than a lack of ability.

Swap out temporary stress busters

By ‘temporary stress busters’ we mean things like cigarettes, alcohol and the tendency to withdraw. While they may provide a brief reprieve from stress, they can themselves go on to create additional problems. Instead, replace them with healthy alternatives like peppermint or chamomile tea (which are known for their calming properties), a healthy refreshing snack like some fruit, and some quality time with your loved ones.

Take exercise

We’ve all heard of endorphins, otherwise known as ‘happy hormones’. These little mood-boosters are the body’s natural opiates and are produced more often during exercise – a trait which is thought to increase our wellbeing. It makes sense, then, that exercising can help to reduce our stress levels, but endorphins aren’t the only reason why exercise can help. Going for a run, doing yoga or even just going for a walk gives you something else to focus on, as well as time to think through the source of your stress.

Eat a balanced diet

The sugary foods we turn to during periods of stress may provide temporary gratification, but are typically followed by a crash in both energy and mood levels once their effect wears off. Eating the right things, on the other hand, can provide balance and lift the mood, and don’t produce the same crash in energy and mood later.

Avocados, for example, contain folate, which helps to promote feelings of calm, while raspberries and blueberries contain high levels of vitamin C, which is shown to be helpful in combating stress. Even dark chocolate (in small doses) can help to lower blood pressure and promote a feeling of calm.

Get enough sleep

It’s no secret that we aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, our Health of the Nation survey revealed that the average person in the UK only sleeps for around 6.4 hours a night, as opposed to the recommended seven to eight hours. When you consider that sleep helps to heal the body and mind, and helps us to process the day just passed, it becomes clear why a lengthy visit to the land of nod is so helpful in reducing stress levels. Feeling tired can increase irritability, meaning we become more highly strung and likely to think irrationally.

Designate a time for relaxation

Did you know that the UK workforce works the longest hours in Europe? It’s no wonder we find so little time to relax. Designating a time for relaxation is incredibly important, however, and can help to reduce your stress levels. Whether it’s using your lunch break to read a book, setting aside an hour in the evening for a long soak or freeing up each weekend just to go for a walk, do something that keeps you calm.

Talk to someone

Whether you decide to confide in your loved ones or visit a trained professional, don’t be afraid to talk about your problems. Letting everything out can be a huge weight off your shoulders, and you may find that other people are experiencing exactly the same thing. It might be that you simply can’t cope on your own, which is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

There isn’t a one size fits all solution to reducing your stress levels, but by trying out some of these coping methods, you will at least have a head start in deciding what works for you.

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