What does natural mean…

About four weeks ago I decided to take up a mixed martial art based on eastern philosophy. This combines not only combat but also meditation. The whole philosophy of the art is based on being humble and renouncing ego.

“In a battle, it’s not your enemy that will kill you. But your ego.”

The idea is to master the transfer of energy so that as you get older and lose muscle you actually become more skilful and less reliant on muscle power for strength.

So I turned up to class thinking by the end of the first lesson I would have been able to give Bruce Lee a run for his money.

Unfortunately, I have spent the last four weeks just learning how to breathe! I was asked to show how I breathe naturally. So I did a normal inhale and exhale with my chest coming out on the inhale and going down on the exhale. This felt ‘natural’ because it was something I was used to.

Notice when you take in a breath too. Do you also feel your chest coming out with every breath?

This is an ‘unnatural’ way of breathing. I know. I was surprised too!

The lungs have a lot of capacity and when we take short breaths to the chest, we are only using our lungs 30%-50%.

Try it, inhale to your normal natural amount. Hold it there. Then see how much more air you can inhale.

It’s like driving a car everywhere in 2nd gear. We will not get the full potential of the car. Why would we not want to get the full potential of our body?

This happens for two reasons:

1. We want to look good (ego). We have incorrectly learnt that if we stick our chest out, it’s a sign of confidence and breathing from the stomach actually looks uncivilised.

2. We don’t have time to breathe

When you breathe properly, deep breath in from the nose until the stomach inflates and deep breath out from the mouth to get all the CO2 out, this not only gives you more energy, is better for your heart (which now has abundant oxygen to pump blood around the body) but it also makes you feel calm and relaxed.

Why did nobody teach us how to breathe at school?

That is how we were created to breathe.

Don’t believe me? Learn from the best examples – babies.

You will only see a baby’s stomach moving. Having just been born, babies are not corrupted by societal pressures or time limitations. They are the best examples of what ‘natural’ means.

You will also notice this when you see tribes living naturally. It always looked weird to me, the hunters standing holding a bamboo stick with the stomach inflating and deflating. But I’m sure if they saw me siting at my desk, crouching over my laptop, taking half breaths they would be scratching their heads too.

You can even try and breathe naturally when you are ill. If you have a fever, sit up in your bed, cover your head, and make the environment comfortable, light a candle, put the lights off etc. Take deep long breaths in from the nose to fill the lungs until the stomach is fully inflated then deep breaths out of the mouth until the stomach is fully sucked in. People have sworn to have gotten better just by doing this.

Over the next week try this breathing technique. When you are in the car or train or getting ready for work or about to go in to a meeting. Say to yourself ‘remember to breathe naturally’. See how different you feel.

When I do it, it feels like time slows down, my physical and mental state changes. Shoulders drop, muscles relax, mind feels less stressed and I feel more connected to the moment.

This is the way to breathe naturally.

There is also a bigger point here. When we breathe naturally and fully, we also appreciate the importance of patience. This will enable us to make better leadership decisions, think clearly, be more self aware and be more creative.

Don’t do it because it is what we should be doing. It is what we should be doing so we can get maximum returns from our mind and body.

So get out of 2nd gear and start seeing the full potential that you were created for.

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2 thoughts on “What does natural mean…”

  1. Good article Prabhmeet. And wow, that martial art sounds awesome. Can I ask, what it is called?

    We all breathe very shallowly, something that happens over the years as we grow up, especially due to the major stressors in our lives in modern society. When we’re stressed or anxious, we automatically breathe incorrectly from our lungs instead of deep breathing from our abdomen. (This is also why so many of us suffer from panic attacks – which I can vouch personally are not nice).

    The more mindful we breathe, the more Oxygen we get delivered to our vital organs, especially our brain; which is perhaps the most important Organ of our body. The better our breathing, the better performance, and the better our success in life. But why we’re we never taught this vital life skill at school huh?!

    I’ve recently been trying the Buteyko Breathing method, which I would also recommend.

    And don’t worry, like you, I am guilty of being a shallow breather 😉

    1. Absolutely – there is no name for the martial art except Elusive fighting. It’s a mixed art so has no particular form but embodies a lot of principles of Tai Chi, which is based on spiritual and philosophical concepts.
      Agreed – you make a very valid point about panic attacks. It also extends to what we cannot always see immediately. If we sit with a crouching back all our life, we will undoubtedly have back problems in the future. The body is not made for that stress. The point is if we breathe incorrectly all our life, we will also have other health problems that could have been avoided. The body is not made for the stress of short breaths. The key principle is nothing is better than just breathing the way we were created to breathe. Simple as that.

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