There’s a scene from the movie 1917 in which a World War I soldier uses a deep breathing technique to calm down during an especially stressful moment. Having used and prescribed that exact technique many times, professional breathworker Jesse Coomer perked up when he caught wind of this.
“It's like that Leo DiCaprio thing that they put in all the memes, where he's holding the beer up and pointing at the TV,” Coomer says with a laugh. “That was me when I saw this. I show it now when I do some of my presentations.”
The Soldier’s Technique
You can use this simple technique to settle your nerves while you’re under enemy fire or when you just want to relax at the end of a long day. Here’s how it works:
- What we’re after here is a 1:2 breathing ratio, meaning that your exhale should be double the length of your inhale. If you can only inhale for two seconds, exhale for four. Keep at it until you can relax enough to inhale for three seconds and exhale for six. Then, build on this until you’re able to inhale for four seconds and exhale for eight seconds.
- Maintain this pattern for two-to-five minutes. “Generally you need at least two minutes for this to really send that message to that unconscious part of you that's like, ‘Hey, we need to be active. There might be snakes in here!’” Coomer explains.
- Many of us will need to keep this exercise up for more than two minutes to feel its effects. “Don't stop until you really feel relaxed,” Coomer urges. “That takes some self-awareness. A little practice will go a long way there.”
- According to Coomer, this can also come in handy when you’re stressed out and having a hard time getting to sleep. A 4:8 breathing pattern is ideal in those kinds of situations.
As we’ve mentioned before, when using most breathwork techniques—this one included—breathe through your nose rather than your mouth, and draw air into your belly as opposed to your chest. Stay focused on how you feel before, during and after you do this and all other breathwork exercises.
If you’re interested in exploring these practices more deeply, join MUD\WTR’s bi-weekly breathwork sessions led by our resident breathwork guide, Chris Keener. The sessions kick off at midday every other Friday over on our Instagram Live.
Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. He has written for Revolver, Guitar World, Spirituality & Health, Classic Rock, High Times and other publications. Read more of his work at damonorion.com.
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