March 19, 2017 By Leanne Vogel December 14, 2018
Interview with Dr. Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist dedicated to the study of breathing. Today we’re chatting about how to heal your body… with breath. Including training yourself to breathe deeper with a quick exercise (it’s great for the core, too!), signs you need to work on your breathing, as well as the detoxification, anti-inflammatory, and gut healing benefits of deep breath.
For podcast transcript, scroll down.
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Leanne Vogel: You’re listening to episode number 25 of The Keto Diet Podcast. Today we’re chatting about health issues caused by not breathing properly, signs you need to work on your breathing, and the most efficient way to strengthen your breath. Stay tuned.
Hey, I’m Leanne from healthfulpursuit.com and this is The Keto Diet Podcast, where we’re busting through the restrictive mentality of a traditional ketogenic diet to uncover the life you crave. What’s keto? Keto is a low-carb, high fat diet where we’re switching from a sugar-burning state to becoming fat burning machines. If you’re in need of keto recipe food prep inspiration, I’ve prepped a free seven-day keto meal plan exclusive for podcast listeners. The plan is complete with a shopping list and everything you need to chow down on keto for seven whole days. Download your free copy at healthfulpursuit.com/ketomeal. Let’s get this party started.
Hey, guys. I just got back from LA on Tuesday morning really, really, really early. My sister and I went to Harry Potter World and I was exhausted after, but it was very cool. We recorded an episode of the podcast that will be coming out in a little while. Very excited to share it with you. The show notes and full transcript for today’s episode can be found at healthfulpursuit.com/podcast/e25. The transcript is added to the post about three to five days following the initial air date of this episode. Let’s hear from one of our awesome partners.
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We have two announcements this week. The first is super exciting and you definitely want in on this party. I’m hosting a huge giveaway in celebration of my upcoming paperback, The Keto Diet. If you head on over to healthfulpursuit.com/ketodietbookgiveaway (we’ll also include a link in the show notes if you’re not sure how to spell any of those things, or it’s confusing, or I spoke too quickly) you can click there. We’re giving away a bunch of the different keto-friendly items that I use to prepare the recipes in The Keto Diet from Bob’s Redmill to Nuco Coconut Wraps, ButcherBox, Artisana, Paleovalley, Swerve, Pacific Foods and more. Again, that’s healthfulpursuit.com/ketodietbookgiveaway to enter to win. The giveaway will be open until April 5th so just head on over to that URL and you should definitely enter because, I mean, I want a huge package like that. There will be two winners and it’s open to the US and Canada. Definitely, check that out.
The second thing is that I’m creating a bunch of new content for the podcast and I would love your help. I want you to tell me what content to create and I want you to tell me what you’re struggling with so that I can help. Please take two minutes to fill out a quick survey at healthfulpursuit.com/survey and tell me what you’re struggling with. When you submit your survey, you’ll also be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card. Again, that’s healthfulpursuit.com/survey. The link will be in the show notes.
Today’s guest is Dr. Belisa Vranich. She’s a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience and has spent the last decade dedicating herself to the study of breathing. She is the founder of The Breathing Class and has appeared in dozens of national media outlets including the Today Show, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Fitness, and Huffington Post. Her new book is Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health. I came across her book on Amazon actually and when I saw it, I loved the cover and I knew I wanted her on the show, just the whole concept and the introduction on Amazon was just brilliant. I grabbed the book, I read it quickly, and our interview today was so good. She walks us through a bunch of different exercises and how to know where your diaphragm is and why this is even important, why this will work. It’s important to your breath. She was very, very open with everything and I really appreciate all the information that she shared.
I know that if you are curious about your breath, or even if you haven’t even thought about your breath, just take a moment, maybe when you’re not totally conscious of it, to see how you’re breathing and if you’re moving your body in all these weird ways and it’s not just your stomach, or you’re having pains or inflammation or adrenal dysfunction, this conversation is going to be so helpful. While not totally ketogenic, definitely something that’s going to help in your ketogenic journey with reducing inflammation and making sure that you’re having a good night’s sleep, you’re reducing stress. All good things. Let’s cut over to the interview.
Leanne Vogel: Hey, how’s it going today?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Hey, how are you? Good morning. Well, I’m not sure if it’s morning for you, but it’s morning for me.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, it’s still morning for me so we are good. It’s 11 o’clock so we’re doing pretty good. I forgot to ask before we started recording, how do you like be addressed? Dr. Belisa Vranich or what’s kind of your…?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: It’s Dr. Belisa, but you know what? You can call me sugar, you can call me honey, you can call me just about anything that’s nice like that and I will respond to you.
Leanne Vogel: Okay, sugar. Let’s do it.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: All right, honey. Let’s go.
Leanne Vogel: For listeners that may not be familiar with your work, why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Sure. Well, I’m a clinical psychologist and I’m based in New York City and Los Angeles. I go back and forth and back and forth. I’m the founder of The Breathing Class. I teach breathing. Although that sounds funny, a couple years ago it sounded funnier than it does now. Now when I actually say that, people have a lot of questions and they sort of perk up and start looking at their own breathing and get really interested. Right now what I do is I teach people how to breathe.
Leanne Vogel: Very cool. It’s a really short elevator pitch.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s breathing. It’s supposed to be just breathing, inhale, exhale, and the fact is that we all do it, we all should be interested in it, and most of us don’t do it so well. I’ve actually figured out how to get a grade for you and then how to fix it after you figure out what your grade is because usually, it’s not so good.
Leanne Vogel: Just like we were mentioning before we started the podcast, I just finished reading your book and it is so truly unique and something that nobody’s really talking about is breath. You know, if you’re in yoga, you’re deep breathing and that’s about the depth of the breath conversation I’ve had in my life. I’ve never seen anything like your book. How did you get into this work? How did you see that there was a need for this?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: It was two-part. One was I went into it because of stress. I was living on stress and adrenaline. You know, part of you sort likes it sometimes because it makes you feel superhuman and you feel super productive, but there’s a point in your life when you sort of crash. Something happens and you either get sick and you get really sick for a while, or you have an injury because you were texting and not watching where you were going or you make a mistake. It’s just a decimal but it’s really a big mistake in the wrong direction. That’s when you realize that a certain amount of stress is actually not so good and that you’re not controlling your stress. It’s really controlling you.
I had one of those “come to Jesus” moments when I found I was not just grinding my teeth, I was really pulverizing them. It was expensive and time-consuming to fix, and now I’ve got this sexy mouth guard that I wear, but it’s under control, thankfully, but I had to address my stress. The first thing I did is I went to a yoga class which is what a lot of people do. They either reach for a glass of red wine or yoga. I did both of them. In yoga class, we did these really cool breathing exercises and I just found myself really drawn to them. I don’t know. I love the words, Kapalabhati, ujjayi, it was kind of cool words and interesting breathing exercises and I wanted more.
I went and I pretty much studied every sort of breathing and read every article I could and then realized that the type of teaching that was out there, because obviously breathing is not a new thing and there are lots of people who teach it, but the way it’s explained is really tough for people to understand. Since my background is in child psychology, I really looked to see how it was being taught and why people weren’t learning from it, which is exactly what you do when you work with kids, and then developed sort of my own method which explained it and used very precise vocabulary and descriptions and exercises that used all your senses so that you could really get it. That’s pretty much where it all started was my teeth grinding.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, I grind my teeth too and it’s totally stress-related and I also have a very attractive mouth guard.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, somebody needs to do a sexier mouth guard because you just look like you’re playing hockey all the time. Yeah, it’s not pretty.
Leanne Vogel: Exactly.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: But effective. Do it. If you need a mouth guard, please wear yours.
Leanne Vogel: It’s amazing and way less expensive than getting your teeth fixed.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Oh yeah.
Leanne Vogel: That’s what I’m going through right now and it’s like, “Whoops. Should have got that mouth guard sooner.”
You know, we’re talking about breath and why is it important? Why is having a good perfect breath pattern ideal when it comes to your health and wellness?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Well, it’s the cornerstone of your health. Period. End of sentence. You’re doing all these other things for your health so maybe you’re taking vitamins or you’re trying to get more sleep, you’re trying to eat more vegetables. Whatever it is that you’re trying to do is great. However, the first thing, really the base, the cornerstone of your health, is your breathing. Everything that you’re doing is to get more oxygen into your body. You work out. You’re trying to get your heart healthy. Looking at your breathing is really the foundation. You can do all those other things. They’re wonderful. There are great vitamins out there. Sleeping is fantastic. But you have to be able to breathe well, both the pattern of your breathing, the style of your breathing, just the depth of your inhales and your exhales. We’re doing it wrong. It’s really something that’s deteriorated to the point where we’re sort of devolving when it comes to our breathing. Once you breathe better, it affects everything in your body. At the very core, inflammation – so autoimmune diseases, your adrenal glands, your acidit – everything that we’re trying to fix in this day and age is directly affected by how well you breathe. It’s really important that if you care about your health, be it your mental or your physical health, that you look at your breathing.
Leanne Vogel: More on my interview with Dr. Belisa Vranich after this message from one of our podcast partners.
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Leanne Vogel: You mentioned acidity, stress. What issues can pop up when you’re not breathing correctly?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Oh, boy. Adrenal fatigue is definitely one of them. If you’re not breathing well, your adrenals are going to kick in to try to get your body to get your pH into neutral. That fatigue isn’t that all-of-a-sudden; our adrenals have stopped working after … In the history of man, our adrenals are now somehow subpar, it’s the fact that we’re either so acidic or so alkaline that our adrenals are working overtime to try to bring us into the middle to have a normal pH. There’s not enough juice left in them to help us with the rest of our lives. That’s definitely one core issue.
Inflammation in your body and autoimmune diseases, all those things are very, very basic and if you don’t have enough oxygen, if you’re taxing your body and there’s too much adrenaline, too much cortisol in it, it’s definitely going to affect how you process your food, how you sleep, how you manage pain disorders. It’s really the cornerstone of everything, which is surprising to me because I went into it because of stress, to teach myself to relax and to teach my own patients who had anxiety disorders to relax. Then I actually found out that I had to learn about digestive disorders and back health and sleep because it was something that people were coming back to me and saying, “Hey, I’m actually sleeping for the first time in a decade,” or, “My back feels a lot better. Is that related to the exercises that we’re doing?” You’ll be surprised what happens with you. Now that you finished the book and are on a plan, on a workout, you’ll be able to tell me what gets better on you. It’s surprising.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, it’s so cool. How does someone know that they need to do this work?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: I either have folks that come to me or ask me questions when they have a sense that something is wrong. Like, you know, a woman’s intuition, especially intuition about health, is fantastic. It’s so on target. Just if you have this feeling that “I can’t take a deep breath” or “I feel like I have what’s called air hunger” or “I feel like my breathing gets stuck on the inhale”…you just have this sense that your breathing is not what it could be or not what it used to be, you’re probably right on target.
A lot of people that I have coming in or buying the book or asking me questions already know that something is wrong. When they actually do the measurements on themselves, they find that, oh my gosh, they’re right. Their breathing is not good. That can be your relief because if you’re not feeling good and your breathing is not good, hey, that can actually be part of the solution. There’s actually a relief in finding out that you were right that your breathing was bad. That’s where you start off is this sense of something’s not right.
Then there’s very, very specifics. I have people who come in and say, “I have asthma,” or, “I’m recovering from cancer,” or, “I have panic attacks,” or, “My doctor told me that for acid reflux or irritable bowel, I should learn how to breathe diaphragmatically. Can you help me?” The span of reasons that people come in is really wide.
Leanne Vogel: There’s a little blue box in your book that says, “Got neck and shoulder pain?” It goes into like … I just finished writing a book and I’ve been doing a lot of sitting, a lot of stressing, and I do find that I get very air hungry. I’ll realize, I don’t know, every hour or so that I haven’t been breathing and I’m like (gasping sound) and since I got started, I’ve been getting this deep pain under my shoulder and I had no idea what it was. I found your book and I was just like, “Oh, breathing. Okay.” Every morning, I’ve been breathing and not even going through the practices yet, which I have on my calendar to start doing tomorrow once I do the little measurement test, the pain is gone like just from focusing on breath. I know ujjayi breath and all those practices that I learned in India, but you forget about it. Just the fact that my shoulder pain has gone away just from thinking about breathing, I mean, the world is your oyster. It’s going to improve so much. I can just see it.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: That’s so common. In general, people that breath vertically use their neck and shoulders to breathe. Whenever you see someone breathing in an ad or on television, taking a deep breath, whether it’s pantyliners or free checking, they’re taking this big supposedly deep breath and their shoulders go up and their upper chest expands. The fact is that looks good on the ad but it’s actually not a good way to breathe because you’re using your neck and shoulder muscles to breathe and they were never meant to be breathing muscles. They’re really just supposed to be neck and shoulder muscles. What you’re doing now is you’re letting them just be neck and shoulder muscles and you’re starting to use your diaphragm to breathe, which the only reason God put your diaphragm in your body and in the middle of your body is so that you could breathe horizontally. Good, I look forward to seeing what else gets better on you.
Leanne Vogel: Totally. For those people that maybe don’t know where their diaphragm is, in the book you kind of talk about like touching the bottom of your ribs and kind of getting a feel for that area. Would that be fair to say, just so that people know kind of where their diaphragm is? Because some people might not know.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: One of the reasons we don’t understand breathing is because we don’t understand the diaphragm. It’s an absolute shame because it’s an enormous muscle. This thing is just like the size of a pizza. It’s in the middle of your body and it’s tremendously important. It’s right underneath your heart. It massages your heart. It creates space for your lungs to be able to take a deep breath. It massages your spine and your digestive organs. Most of us, it’s completely locked up and useless. Actually, if we want to do this right now, getting to know where your diaphragm is, and really, in a tactile way, in a visual way, being able to experience it is super important. I’m going to do this with you now.
I want you to put your fingers right in the front of your body. Stick them in the front of your body right at the notch where your ribs meet. I want you to poke your fingers in there. It’s massively uncomfortable but that way you’ll remember it. I want you to stick your fingers in there and then walk them around the bottom rib and see if you can take your fingers and almost curl them underneath your ribs as you walk them across. Now, stop when you get directly underneath your nipples. I want you think about this. Your ribs are attached to your sternum a lot like handles on a pail. On the inhale, they’re supposed to just gently, just slightly, flair out horizontally. On the exhale, they’re supposed to narrow your body. Inhale, they make your body flair out. On the exhale, your body narrows and your ribs narrow.
Leanne Vogel: How cool is that? You can totally feel it.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: It’s supposed to be happening. Keep walking your fingers around. You’re going to hit your floating rib, which is kind of cool. It’s hanging out there. I hit some back fat. I don’t know if you do. It’s okay. It keeps us warm in the winter. Keep walking your fingers. You’re not going to feel your ribs anymore because you’re going to get to a little bit of fat and muscle. Just have your fingers meet in the back of your body. Now flatten your hands against your back. You have lungs, like really bring attention to your palms and to your fingers. You have lungs all the way down there. Think about the anatomical real estate that your lungs have in your body. Now, that whole circle that you’ve gone around in your body with your fingertips, that’s where your diaphragm attaches. Now, mentally, I want you to think about that. That is a really big muscle. It goes all the way around your body. It’s a complete cross-section of your body. Think about a Frisbee. That’s what is in the very middle of your body. On the inhale, it actually tries to push your ribs open. On the exhale, your body narrows. Shoulders aren’t doing anything. Inhale right now and try to expand the middle of your body and exhale, narrow your body, and shoulders are just still and soft and relaxed. That’s the way you should be breathing.
Leanne Vogel: So cool. I mean, you can really feel everything, I mean, especially when my fingers were right underneath my nipples and just shy of my floating rib. I only have one because I’m missing a floating rib on the other side.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Oh, you’re a uni-ribber.
Leanne Vogel: I don’t even know what it is. Yeah, you can totally feel everything just expanding. That is so cool to kind of give mindfulness practice of where the body should be moving.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, usually when you think about diaphragm, it’s this little red line because when you see anatomy pictures, sometimes they don’t even have the diaphragm there. Everybody thinks that lungs are muscles and they inflate. No, it’s actually they are organs and they don’t. They’re really just like very static sponges that are in there and your diaphragm has to lower like I just said. It flattens out. It lowers and it pushes your ribs open and that makes the air come into your body. If you’re not using your diaphragm, you’re not getting a really good breath.
Leanne Vogel: We were probably born knowing how to breathe.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, actually fetuses will expand … You know, they’ll actually practice breathing in utero. It’s really cool. Then when you’re born, you breathe well. It’s not just infants. I never use the example of infants. You actually breathe really well and properly til you’re about five. If you have kids, look at your four-year-old, your five-year-old breathe. They just breathe fantastically. It’s just a beautiful breath. Look at your ten-year-old or your 15-year-old breathing and it’s just a hot mess.
Leanne Vogel: Why? Why does this happen?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Think about it. First things that happen…there’s about six or seven things that happen. One is that at five and six, you start going to school. You start going to school, you start sitting a lot. With sitting comes bad posture and posture affects your breathing up to 30%. That’s one reason. Think about us now as adults. What do we do? 13 to 16 hours a day, you’re sitting. That’s probably in the car, in front of your computer, all these things where your hips are rolled under, your shoulders are rolled forward, and you’re not taking a big deep breath in. Your posture has something to do with it.
The second thing that happens is that you may be really comfortable walking around with your middle being relaxed. Well, someone comes over and either pokes you or pokes someone else in the belly and starts teasing them about looking fat. All you need to do is see someone poke someone else in the belly. As you’re five or six years old, you don’t want to be teased. You start sucking in your belly. You look at your mom and your dad and they’re sucking in their bellies too. Then you look at those ads on TV and everybody’s waist is narrow and their chest is opened up. The doctor comes, puts the stethoscope on the very top of your lungs and tells you to take a deep breath. Well, you just think your lungs are all the way up there. There starts the misunderstanding that your breath should be at the top of your lungs when it actually should be at the very bottom where your lungs are most dense and there’s the most oxygen.
Leanne Vogel: Wow. That training constantly. Everything you said, I was like, “Yep. That definitely happened to me.” I remember my first yoga class and she said deep belly breath and I just like stuck out my belly. What does this belly do?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Belly breath…you bring up a great thing, which is that people say “belly breath”, but nobody understands belly breath. They’re like, “Yeah, I get it that I should be popping my belly, but why am I doing that?” No one really understands why they are doing a belly breath. I actually remember I had somebody once say, “Well, I don’t want to do a belly breath because I don’t want to get gassy.” The fact is that when you relax your belly as you inhale, the air isn’t going into your digestive system. It’s not going into your stomach at all. You’re just letting your stomach relax so that your diaphragm can then move. You can’t actually use your diaphragm when your belly is gripped. It’s just by association. The belly breath just helps you pull the breath down lower in your body so that you can use your diaphragm. Once you do that, it calms you down because neurologically, your body looks to see where you’re breathing from to see if you’re going to be calm. If you’re breathing lower, if your belly’s expanding, if your diaphragm’s expanding, then your heart rate goes down and your blood pressure goes down automatically.
Leanne Vogel: In addition to that blood pressure and your heart rate and just being calmer, what other positive effects can people get by doing this work?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Your cortisol comes down. All of us are hearing about cortisol and having high cortisol and how it makes you have belly fat and it just wreaks havoc on your health. Once you start breathing with a lower body breath, once that horizontal breath, is that your cortisol is going to come down. All the basic things that then ripple throughout your health are going to get better.
For me, the idea that it helps with your back, your back health, and especially your digestive system and your interest in nutrition and your specialization in food and diet, it’s really important that your folks know that if you breathe well, you get the oxygen that your cells need to be able to break down those nutrients that you’ve had. If you’re not giving your body enough oxygen, then your cells can’t break down all that really good nutritious nutrient-rich food. For folks who are looking at what they’re eating and want to eat better and want to digest better, having more oxygen for your cells is definitely important.
Then being able to have body awareness for when you’re hungry or when you’re just thirsty, when you’re hungry and when you’re anxious. Very, very different. I know I’ve been an emotional eater in the past as well. Being able to differentiate when you’re lonely or when you’re hungry, when you’re anxious or hungry, or when you’re thirsty or hungry is really important. If you’ve been bracing your whole body and you aren’t really in touch with it, it’s hard to figure out those things. Doing the lower body breath, you start getting in touch with yourself and start being able to make that difference of when you need a glass of water or when you really need an apple and some peanut butter or whatever it is that makes you happy.
Leanne Vogel: I think the inflammation and boosted gut health is a really big one for those listening. Those are two hot topics when it comes to health and wellness. By just breathing, having a deeper breath and not using your shoulders and doing some of those techniques can reduce inflammation, reduce cortisol, all these things that we try to do with food. You’re saying that just breathe better and it will kind of all just fall together for you.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Acidity is one that I’m sure you talk about as well. You can change your acidity. You have metabolic acidity and you have respiratory acidity. Sometimes I have people come to see me and they eat really clean, just really good clean diets, very mindful eating, but they’re still acidic. That’s when you have to say, “Let me look at my breathing,” because there’s respiratory acidosis. It’s fascinating to see that you can use the acidity strips. I like the one that comes in a roll that you can get at Whole Foods. You test your acidity, you do your breathing exercises, and your acidity will change. You can actually get yourself to change significantly within a week or two if you continue to do your breathing exercises. It’s remarkable, really.
Leanne Vogel: Interesting. In the book, you taught a little bit about the baseline and you mentioned it a bit before. Can you go through a little bit about what the baseline is and explain how that works and how it can be helpful to working on your breath?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Sure. One of the problems with learning how to breathe or teaching breathing is that we can’t see air, we can’t see lungs. We kind of just have this feeling that something is wrong. One of the reasons I added a baseline and actually a grade as well, it’s called the BIQ, the breathing IQ, is because it helps folks know where they are. I come from a fitness background. I like knowing running this much time, I’m pumping this much weight and I want to get to a bigger number or a smaller number, depending on what I’m doing. The breathing IQ gives you a sense of what grade does my breathing have. Is it as bad as I think? Is it worse than I thought? Have my exercises helped my breathing from last week to this week?
What you’re going to do is you’re going to look at the style of your breathing and also a number which is called your vital lung capacity. That’s a number where you look at how much you’re using your diaphragm in inches. There’s a calculation that you do and you end up with a grade. The other things I like people looking at is their acidity, their breath hold. If they’ve been to a pulmonary clinic, they can look at what’s called their FEV or their FVC, which is the amount of lung capacity they have and the lung velocity they have. Just as important, and maybe even more important, is setting a baseline for yourself. Am I using the breathing exercises to help myself with cravings, with pain, with sleep? What’s my baseline for the reasons I’m doing this? Is it checking to see how my acid reflux gets better, my brain fog? Really having a baseline for I’m at one or two or I’m sort of average or my pain is a little bit high, higher than I’d like it to be, then doing the breathing exercises and seeing those numbers change is really important because they change really almost immediately.
Leanne Vogel: That’s so interesting. I can’t wait to get a measuring tape and get started.
More on my interview with Dr. Belisa Vranich after this message from one of our podcast partners.
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Leanne Vogel: Some of the breathing techniques, like you offer a couple in the book, you walked me through how to kind of find the diaphragm, what’s your main go-to breathing technique that you personally enjoy doing? Is there like one technique that you personally love, or do you kind of have to do all of them in the book in order to get the benefits?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: No, no. I mean, I’m a big believer in, yeah, buy the book if you want to. Share it with your friends, go ahead. Take it out of the library. Whatever you need to do. I want people to learn how to breathe. They don’t necessarily have to buy the book. It’s nice if they do. It helps me pay my rent. However, I just want people breathing better and I want them to be empowered by their breath and for them to sort of get hope in the beauty and the perfection of the way their body works if they let it and if they have this information.
The core breath, the most important breath, I’ll give it to you now, is that you sit and I actually want you to separate your legs so that they’re a little bit further than hip-width apart. You’re sitting in your chair, legs are a little bit more than hip-width apart, and on the inhale, I want you to let your belly go, put your hands on your belly, and I want you to pretend that you remember when you were pregnant, if you’ve had children, or you can call out your inner Santa Claus and just let your belly go. Tip forward and put your belly on your lap. Inhale, put your belly on your lap or as close to your lap as you can. Now on the exhale, lean back, curl your hips under you as if you’re leaning back on the sofa, watching TV, that kind of curled back, and exhale.
Forwards again, relax your belly, bump your butt back. It’s like you’re getting selfie butt, I call it. Selfie butt or Valsalva if you squat. Belly on your lap. Really relax it. Let it drop into your hands. Now on the exhale, roll your hips back. Shoulders are not moving at any part of this. Roll your hips back and your belly button should be getting closer to your spine. Really narrow your body. Exhale all the way out. Squeeze then tip forward again. This time see if you can expand a little bit more. Belly wide and sides wide and see if you can actually sip in some air and make that belly bigger. Believe me, although you may be aghast at, “My gosh. She wants me to make my belly breather,” this is just the introductory breath. Later on, you won’t have to do this. While you’re teaching your body, while you’re helping it to remember how it used to breathe, this is what you’ve got to do.
If you breathe this way, your core is going to get stronger. Just sucking in your belly all the time is not making you stronger. It’s actually making you weaker. Doing this exercise, and this does count as an ab workout, is actually going to make your core stronger in the long run. That way when you do have to wear that clingy gown on the red carpet, you can suck in your gut much longer and much better.
Keep going. Inhale, belly on your lap, sip in some air. Roll your shoulders. Don’t let them move. Make sure they’re relaxed and soft. Exhale. Tip back. If you do yoga, you’re going to realize that this feels like a seated cat cow. If you do yoga and the breathing’s right, let’s just check on that a second, when you’re in cow pose, meaning that your belly is dropped low and relaxed, that should be an inhale. Now, if you go into cat pose which is scary Halloween cat, your back is rolled against the back of your chair, you should be exhaling, squeeze. Think about that. This is really a seated cat cow. I want you to really roll your hips forwards and back so you can feel yourself rolling forwards on your hip bones and letting your pelvic floor really touch up against the bottom of your chair. Then on the exhale, really roll your hips back, tailbone goes underneath you, and you really squeeze, belly button getting closer to your spine.
That is the most important breath you can learn and that one will get you set up for everything else. If you learn one thing, please learn that one and practice it as often as you can.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, I was doing it while you were telling us what to do and it did very much feel like cat cow, just seated, and could actually be quite … You know, for disabled people, making it easier for them to participate in this sort of activity. I know like both my parents are and I try to be mindful of people and the accessibility of exercise. I know I did a seated yoga class at the Chopra Center many, many years ago and they did a seated cat cow and I thought it was so cool because if you can’t get down on your hands and knees, this is a great way to do it. I felt quite meditative when you were explaining what to do with our belly. It could be a really good way to kind of get into that meditative zone for maybe people that can’t meditate or say that they can’t meditate. Would that be fair?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Absolutely. Think about it. Usually meditation, they don’t teach you how to breathe. They just say breathe. Most people that can’t meditate, it’s because they’re still breathing in a vertical fight-or-flight way. You’re trying to meditate. Meanwhile, through the breath, you’re telling your body to be alert. Well, of course, it’s not happening. If you do that and you focus on the sound of your inhale and your exhale, that is meditating. If you can do that tipping forwards and back, make your breath really noisy and just listen to the sound of your breath for a minute or two minutes, guess what? You can check “meditated today” off your list because you did do it.
Leanne Vogel: Beautiful and way more engaging, I find. It’s more mindful even just doing that a couple of times. I feel a lot more relaxed so thank you.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, yeah. It’s some good stuff for sure.
Leanne Vogel: There’s a lot of obsession or focusing on detoxification, just going on cleanses and blah, blah, blah. Would you say that having strong breath and a good breath pattern can help with detoxifying the body?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Thank you so much for that question. I so appreciate that. There’s a lot of talk about lymph. People don’t really know what lymph is. They know it’s bad. You know, when you get a lymph massage, a lot of people will go, “Oh, it was too light. I didn’t get it.” The fact is that you have a drainage system in your body. This drainage system gets lymph which is toxic. You don’t want a lot of lymph in your body. You want to be able to get it out. Now, most people don’t do a good job of getting lymph out of their body because they’re not breathing with their whole body. One of the best things you can do to detoxify your body is not these super extreme detoxes that folks put themselves through. I really think they’re beating themselves up in a kind of strange way to put themselves through detoxes that are really grueling and questionable as far as your body. I mean, I think detoxing is good for you when it’s done thoughtfully and moderately, but the extremes that I’m seeing are really crazy.
You could really detoxify well and gently much better actually if you breathe with your whole body so that your body’s getting massaged and you get lymph out of your body. When you’re breathing this way that your whole body is moving, you’re able to massage your organs and get it out of your body much more quickly, which is why when someone does one of the hardcore exercise classes with me or if you put together your own hard breathing workout, which you will after you read the book, is that you have really moved a lot of lymph out of places where it shouldn’t be, your organs are massaged, you need to drink a ton of water and flush it out of your system. Will you automatically feel better? It’s amazing. You feel better really right away and you’re not imagining it because you’re supporting your lymph system in a way that your body was set up to do but we stop breathing right so we don’t do it anymore. You’ll notice when you inhale and exhale the way we were just doing, rocking forwards and back, that your whole body is engaged. From your pelvic floor all the way up to your armpits, you’re moving. Things are getting massaged and it’s the absolute best thing you can do for your body to detoxify.
Leanne Vogel: That is very cool. In fact, it’s so interesting that you say that because I’ve been going for facials, like I do the silk peel thing every other month or something like. It’s so great, but after, my face has been inflamed and I actually stopped doing it because I was getting more acne and stuff. I went to a new lady and she had this whole different pattern of moving the tool on my face. I was like, “What are you doing?” She’s like, “I’m moving your skin in the way of your lymphatic drainage system.” I’m like, “Of course you are. That’s brilliant.” I didn’t react to the facial at all this time and it actually benefited my skin.
It’s so interesting by just moving something on your face just a different way can cause so much more inflammation than just going with that drainage system. I have no doubt that if your practices and exercises are focused on that that you could see some real benefit going beyond a juice cleanse for like ten days.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, for months.
Leanne Vogel: Not my cup of tea, thank you very much. That’s really cool.
As somebody who just finished writing a book myself, what was your favorite part of writing your book?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Finishing.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, totally. That, definitely.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Yeah, finishing was great.
Let’s see. I mean, when you write a book, you feel like it’s your baby, really. I think seeing it getting the copy where it’s all together and seeing it in a cover and all together, you just don’t believe. It’s such a long arduous process that you don’t believe it’s really ever going to happen because of the edits and all that. Finally getting it and seeing it in hard copy just gives you this sense of pride.
When you write something with the mission of helping people, knowing that it’s going to ripple and getting emails and calls from people across the world and them letting you know how it’s helped them is just the most amazing feeling. I mean, there’s nothing to compare with it to think that there are folks that are reading this and it’s helping them and it’s getting them set up to believe in their bodies again. In general, I think people feel very disempowered when it comes to their health and really don’t trust their bodies to be doing the right thing, especially women. We just don’t trust our bodies because we’ve been told not to trust them and we’ve been so disappointed by them and we feel like we’re battling against our bodies the whole time. When you give someone the information that lets them know that their body is perfect and works incredibly well if they just let it do what it’s supposed to, I just can’t think of a better feeling, really.
Leanne Vogel: Definitely. How has this work changed your life personally? The breath work, how has it changed?
Dr. Belisa Vranich: I have no social life. I actually have no social life.
Leanne Vogel: Maybe because you’re a writer.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: This is my mission and I have a very little social life and I don’t mind. I mean, at some point, I’ll get my social life back, but all kidding aside, just the process has made me even more passionate about it. I’ve had to continue to read and continue to educate myself. I’m doing a teacher training right now. I just did one in New York. There’s another one coming up in Los Angeles then London. Germany is my one wheelchair teacher training for breathing. Being able to teach and being able to develop myself as a teacher has been really interesting. Just waking up and being passionate about something every single day. I mean, in the past I’ve had a bit of vocational ADD so I had a lot of jobs within psychology but I always wanted to do something where I had to change and I had to keep up. With the breathing, I’ve had to research breathing in things I’d never imagined, like I’m reading a book now on Russian special operations training and how to breathe. I’ve had to learn golf to learn how golfers breathe. The amount of work I have to put into is tremendous and I actually really like it.
Leanne Vogel: That’s cool. You’ve got to love what you do. Especially when you develop that passion, it sort of just comes with it. When you’re passionate about something and you want to sit and read for hours about things that people would be like, “What? Why? Why are you doing that? How is that interesting?”
Dr. Belisa Vranich: I feel really nerdy sometimes. I mean, I get excited. Every time I talk about this, I get this excited. It’s nice because I have folks that come along and they get it as well and they’re just as excited. It’s nice not to be nerdy all by myself. I get to be nerdy and love the science and teach people who, again, get wide-eyed and sort of blown away by it. It’s just so fulfilling. It really is. I feel blessed that I can do this every day all the time. At some point, I’ll catch up and go have a social life. Right now, just to be able to teach as much as I can and do lovely podcasts like yours and be able to present is just I can’t be happier.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, it takes over your life when you’re passionate about something. I can tell you’re totally lit up when you’re sharing this information. It’s so inspiring. It’s quite interesting how I found your book. I was just on Amazon and it came up as something recommended to me and, I mean, I’ve never bought anything about breath or anything to do with this. It came up and I was like, “What is that? I need to have this lady on my podcast. This is so interesting.” I really appreciate you putting your work out there. Congratulations on being recommended everywhere I go on Amazon. That’s crazy.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: And congratulations on yours as well. Relax now that it’s done and, yeah, be proud of yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Nice stuff. Congratulations.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, as I totally understand now when people say writing a book is probably the unhealthiest thing you’ll ever do but also the most fulfilling. Like you said, just being able to give your knowledge to somebody, even if it’s just one person, if you can just change or adjust one person’s way of looking at breath or, in my case, looking at fat and eating more fat, that’s a job well done. Thank you so much for putting your stuff out there.
Where can people find you if they’re like, “Wow, she’s amazing. I need all of her things.”
Dr. Belisa Vranich: It’s The Breathing Class because I’m a simple creature and it’s just The Breathing Class or drbelisa.com, D-R-B-E-L-I-S-A.com. The book is Breathe and please support your local bookstores by going to your local bookstores and ordering it or going to your local libraries. If not, you can go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon. I teach and am coming out with a video class soon. I do Facebook Live and I’m really good at answering questions and getting myself out there and being available to folks. I appreciate you having me on your podcast.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, definitely let us know when your video class starts. I was thinking as I was reading the book, I was like, “This would be great as a video course.”
Dr. Belisa Vranich: I’m getting there. I’m getting there.
Leanne Vogel: Baby steps, totally. Thank you so much. I’ll make sure to include your book and your website in the show notes, which everyone can find by going to healthfulpursuit.com/podcast/e25. Thanks again for being on today’s show.
Dr. Belisa Vranich: Have a great day.
Leanne Vogel: You too.
That does it for another episode of the Keto Diet Podcast. Thanks for listening in. You can follow me on Instagram by searching Healthful Pursuit where you’ll find daily keto eats and other fun things and check out all of my keto supportive programs, bundles, guides, and other cool things over at healthfulpursuit.com/shop and I’ll see you next Sunday. Bye.
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HI! I’M LEANNE
Nutrition educator + keto enthusiast. I want to live in a world where every woman loves her body, nourishing fats are enjoyed at every meal, and the word “restriction” isn’t in the dictionary.