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THE ART OF CONSCIOUS BREATHING

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In the previous blog, you learned about how essential breathing is to life, despite it being regularly overlooked as a necessity for good health. In fact, you now are aware of the fact that conscious breathing is one of the most powerful keys to enhancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. As promised, you will now be exposed to specific tips and guidance on how to begin incorporating conscious breathing into your daily life!

How Do I Begin?

The first thing there is to do is to become present with how you currently are naturally breathing. It would be most beneficial for you to jot down some notes in relation to this for your own referencing! As you sit and read this, from where are you inhaling and exhaling your breaths? Your nose? Your mouth? Both? What do you notice is moving as you breathe? Your chest? Your stomach? Neither? Both? Pay attention to the sounds you make as you inhale and exhale. What do you hear? Where is it coming from? Do you not hear anything at all? Now, focus on your respiration speed. You can even time it with the second-hand of a clock or watch. How many breaths are you taking per minute? Also note the number seconds your inhale lasts, as well as your exhale. Finally, note what the rest of your body is doing, right now, as you are reading this. Are any muscles tensed? Anything clenched? How is your posture?

What’s Wrong?

Ok. Now that you’ve taken a few notes on your breathing, let’s look at a few ways that it can be improved! No need to stress out about what you discover, we never really were given a lesson on “how to breathe” when we were children. You just started breathing the best way you knew how. The beauty of conscious breathing, is that anything can be corrected with consistent practice in a very short amount of time! Here’s a quick five-point checklist you can easily commit to memory to enhance your current breathing pattern that I like to remember as “The Five S’s”:

  1. STRUCTURE: Keep in mind that generally speaking, during normal breathing at rest, the nose is for breathing and the mouth is for eating. Inhalation and expiration should occur through the nose. There are only special circumstances where you may be trained to do otherwise (i.e. athletics, singing, swimming, etc.). However, in general, this is a good rule of thumb because when you inhale through the correct structure, it allows the air to be cleaned and warmed so that the lungs can receive it better.
  2. SPREAD: This refers to the depth of your breaths. As you inhale, you want the air you took in through your nostrils to spread past the nasal cavity, down your trachea, and into your lungs as your diaphragm contracts and flattens to allow the lungs more room to expand as they fill. Your rib muscles also lift up and outward to give the lungs more space. Hence the movement of the chest and the stomach-area (diaphragm) you should always see/feel during conscious breathing. Of course, when you exhale, everything happens in reverse.
  3. SOUND: I’m sure you know someone who snores during respiration while they’re asleep. You may also even know someone who snores during respiration when they’re awake! Inhalation and exhalation should be silent, and generally speaking, any sounds made during respiration (i.e. snoring, wheezing, crackling, etc.) could be indicative of obstruction of the respiratory tract, or another serious respiratory system/general wellness issue that should be assessed by your primary care physician.
  4. SPEED: The average person is breathing too quickly, and therefore too shallow. Proper respiration (i.e. the uptake and distribution of oxygen, wrapped up with the collection and release of carbon dioxide and waste) cannot occur optimally if this is done to fast! During normal respiration, at rest, you want to begin to get in the habit of inhaling for at least 2-3 seconds, and then exhaling for at least 3-4 seconds. I say “at least” because these intervals can be extended to effectively deal with moments of elevated stress, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, during meditation, etc.
  5. SEDATE: This is in reference to every other muscle and joint group in your body as your consciously breathing. Make sure nothing is tense, and everything is relaxed. Pay close attention to those areas of the body that tense subconsciously for you (i.e. allow your shoulders to relax and sink down, and allow your jaw to release and unclench). Finally, become very aware of your posture. Whether you are sitting or standing, you want to be sure to maintain good posture as much as possible. Shoulders rolled back, chest opened, back upright and straight, etc.

Remember, practice makes perfect! Begin by incorporating at least 5-10 minutes of conscious breathing everyday (perhaps every morning before hopping out of bed to start your day). This is actually one of my personal favorite forms of daily meditation! 

Always remember: The way you breathe is the way you live

 

Please be sure to stay tuned to the website for more wellness blog posts!

 

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

 

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BREATHE AGAIN

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No, today’s blog has nothing to do with my favorite Toni Braxton song. Yes, I do apologize to those of you who now have that catchy love song stuck in your head. Today, I’m asking you to "breathe again" so that you can become aware of your breathing pattern. Once you become aware of it, you can then address any flaws within it, as well be able to manipulate it so it works for you rather than against you. All of this I've just described is what's commonly referred to as “conscious breathing”.

What’s the Big Deal?

Conscious breathing (also sometimes referred to as mechanical breathing) is the art of simply being aware or present to the way that you are inhaling and exhaling, as well as mastering the act of altering this pattern to achieve varying desired wellness outcomes (very similar to meditation).

How does this relate holistically to the mind, body and spirit? Well…

Body: The body can only survive for a few minutes without breath. If we are not breathing well, we are not revitalizing our bodies. Meaning, we are not digesting and absorbing our food/nutrients properly, we are not eliminating waste efficiently, etc.

Mind: Conscious breathing not only greatly improves our physical wellbeing, but it enables us to connect with and safely release any underlying mental or emotional damage that has been preventing us from living our lives to the fullest. 

Spirit: Our breath is our connection to the Most High. The diaphragm is known as the “spiritual muscle”. By not breathing properly, we are cutting ourselves off from God. Conscious breathing reconnects us to our divinity, our sense of oneness and our sense of being apart of everything.

What are the Health Benefits of This?

Appropriate breathing techniques can change your life! Many common health issues can be mildly if not completely relieved simply by making a conscious effort to breathe slower and deeper (i.e. elevated stress levels, high blood pressure, asthma, migraine headaches, anxiety, chronic pain, depression, insomnia, muscular tension, poor concentration, etc.).

In fact, ever hear or read about laughter being the best medicine? Well when we laugh, the amount of air we take in increases and the muscles in our chest loosen. Most of us have laughed so hard that we gasp for air and say “please stop making me laugh"! Increasing the amount of laughter in your life is an easy way to increase the amount of deeper, better quality breathing in your life.

Wondering exactly how to begin incorporating conscious breathing into your daily life so you can begin to experience the positive health benefits? Stay tuned for part II of this blog to get specific directions and tips on how to do so! I want you to start reaping the health benefits of conscious breathing, because the way you breathe is the way you live!

 

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

THE TYPE OF WATER YOU SHOULD BE DRINKING

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Now that you are equipped with tips on how to stay hydrated on a daily basis from the previous blog post, let’s talk about the variation between nine different types of water. Learn which ones hydrate the body better, and which you may want to avoid consuming from here on out.  Here’s a list of the most popular types of water available today, and a little about each of them…

 

1. Tap Water

Tap water contains heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, medicines like antibiotics and antidepressants and hundreds of chemicals, many of which are not even measured or regulated. Fluoride causes many, many side effects, weakening bones and increasing your chance of developing osteoporosis and cancer, yet it’s added to almost every municipal water supply in the country. Tap water, if unfiltered, often has too many toxic metals and chemicals in it to be good for drinking. Since city regulators do not monitor or filter for medications, there are hundreds of medications in your tap water. It’s generally not a good idea to drink tap water.

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2. Drinking Water

Drinking water also comes from a municipal source, but is better known as tap water. Don’t bother paying for bottled drinking water that you can get out of your tap. Some may even come "purified" or even with a couple "added minerals".  Example: Store Brand Drinking Water

Kroger Drinking Water

 

3. Reverse Osmosis Water

This method involves passing water at high pressure through a plastic membrane with tiny holes in it. This is a common filtration method in many bottled waters, as it produces very pure water. It is used in almost all home and commercial drinking water machines such as those in water stores, supermarkets and health food stores. Reverse osmosis water does not hydrate as well as spring water, however, because of this irreversible “damage” to the water that occurs due to passing it through the plastic membrane. Example: Dasani

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4. Distilled Water

Distilled water has gone through a rigorous filtration process to strip it not only of contaminants, but of any natural minerals as well. When water is distilled, by boiling and condensing it, all solid matter is left (except the chemicals that were in the water). Because it is devoid of minerals, distilled water grabs and holds onto minerals within the body (a process called chelation). Distilled water can be used for a few months to remove toxic metals and toxic chemicals from the body quite effectively. However, drinking distilled water for longer than this always results in vital mineral deficiencies. Example: Smart Water

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5. Mineral Water

Mineral water contains no less than 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved mineral solids, and is therefore defined by this constant level of mineral and trace elements at the point of emergence from its original source. No minerals can be added to the water. Example: Acqua Panna

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6. Sparkling Mineral Water

Yes, the fizzy kind! But what makes it fizzy? This type of water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had when it emerged from its original source. Sparkling bottled waters may be labeled as "sparkling drinking water", "sparkling mineral water", "sparkling spring water", etc. This water is okay to indulge in during your restaurant outings, but not so much as your main/every day water source due to the carbon dioxide content.

Examples: Perrier or San Pellegrino

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7. Artesian Water

This is our (humans’) closest imitation of spring water. Artesian water comes from a well that is dug in the earth. When the well is dug, the internal pressure from the hole causes the water to burst forth spontaneously from the well like a fountain. The well taps a confined aquifer (a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand), in which the water level is above the top of the aquifer. Example: Fiji Water

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8. Spring Water

Spring water is one of the best types of water to drink!!! Spring water has been filtered by the earth in ways we still do not completely understand; but which works better than any invented means of purifying water! Another advantage is that it contains a wide variety of trace minerals that the human body desperately needs! Examples: Evian or Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water

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9. Alkaline Water

Alkaline water is also one of the best types of water to drink!!! It has been ionized to increase its pH to between 8 and 10! Research has shown that it is extremely difficult for disease to thrive in an environment that is predominantly alkaline. It is believed that alkaline water is beneficial because of its alkalinity (high pH-balance), its ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) which makes it an antioxidant, and its micro-clustering effect which allows its much smaller sized water molecules to pass more efficiently in and out of your cells to hydrate better! The only downside to this type of water is that right now, it is generally very costly. If you cannot afford it, it’s just as great to alkalize the body by consuming lots of whole foods, drinking spring water, and taking your essential supplements. You can even squeeze a freshly sliced key lime or lemon into your spring water for added ORP effects. Examples:  The Real Alkalized Water, Evamor or Essentia 

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Please be sure to stay tuned to the website for more wellness blog posts!

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

THE TRUTH ABOUT APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

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It seems like everywhere I go someone is either talking or asking me about the benefits of apple cider vinegar. It’s been around for centuries, yet for some reason now it’s gaining rapid popularity. Do I endorse this product? Absolutely! To be specific, I endorse the natural (un-distilled) raw and organic version of it, most familiarly recognized as the Braggs brand in stores. Let me share a little with you about this magical product…

History

Research worldwide supports and commends what Hippocrates (the father of medicine) found and treated his patients with in 400 B.C. He discovered that natural, un-distilled Apple Cider Vinegar (or ACV) is a powerful cleansing and healing elixir, "a naturally occurring antibiotic and antiseptic that fights germs and bacteria" for a healthier, stronger, longer life! It was also used in Biblical times as an antiseptic and a healing agent, and is mentioned in the Bible.

Nature’s Best Kept Secret

Natural (un-distilled) organic, raw ACV is made from fresh, crushed apples which are then allowed to mature naturally in wooden barrels, as wood seems to "boost" the natural fermentation. Natural ACV should be rich, brownish color and if held to the light you might see a tiny formation of "cobweb-like" substances that we call the "mother." It never needs refrigeration. When you smell natural ACV, there's a pungent odor and sometimes it's so ripened it puckers your mouth and smarts your eyes. These are natural, good signs.

A Few Benefits of ACV

HEALTH

  • Type II Diabetes Prevention & Treatment (sugar regulation)
  • Weight Loss (metabolism booster/fat burner)
  • Lower Cholesterol
  • Detox
  • Clear Sinuses (including cold & flu symptoms)
  • Sore throat
  • Digestive Aid (including acid reflux)
  • Skin Issues (including sunburn, ingrown hairs, razor bumps, acne, psoriasis, eczema, fungal infections, warts, etc.)
  • Energy Booster
  • Maintains Internal Alkalinity (disease prevention) 

HOME

  • Non-Toxic All-Purpose Cleaner (including to clean your fruits & veggies)
  • Non-Toxic Weed Killer
  • Non-Toxic Odor Neutralizer (especially great for cleaning up after pets)
  • Non-Toxic flea repellant for your pets

BEAUTY/HYGIENE

  • Shiny, Flake-Free Hair
  • Facial Toner/Cleanser
  • Deodorant
  • Fade Bruises
  • Whiten Teeth
  • Eliminate Bad Breath
  • Stop Smelly Feet

FOOD

  • Add it to…
    • Juice
    • Baking
    • Sauces
    • Soups
    • Salads
    • Marinades

For more information on ACV (i.e. where to find this specific brand, cost, how much to use, how often to use it, etc.), feel free to email your inquires to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Also, please be sure to stay tuned to the website for more wellness blog posts!

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature

TEN TIPS FOR STAYING HYDRATED

Fruit Infused Waters from Green Blender 

After reading part one of this water blog series, you should now understand why water is so much more important to us than other beverage; why we must replenish with it regularly; ways we constantly lose water and how much we should be consuming of it each day! Whew! NOW, let’s talk about just how to get in the ounces you calculated in part one of this blog series that you should be drinking each day…

  1. Begin each DAY with water hydration! Within 30-45 minutes of waking up, it would greatly benefit your body to consume at least 8 ounces of water. If you can squeeze the juice from a freshly sliced key lime or lemon into it, even better!
  2. Begin each MEAL with water hydration! Before reaching for that utensil, reach for that glass. Consume at least 8 ounces of water before your first bite of food. This will not only add ounces to your water intake goal for the day, but it’s a great way to avoid overeating for those trying to maintain or lose weight.
  3. Keep water with you at ALL times! Never let “not having access to water” be an excuse for not consuming it. Also, we all know the infamous saying: out of sight, out of mind. Keeping water with you keeps it in your line of vision, thus serving as a subliminal reminder to take a swig or two. Invest in a water bottle that is no smaller than 24 oz in size. Aim for BPA-free plastic bottles or glass bottles. This large size bottle will also help you hit in your daily water intake goal much easier than trying to count out glasses, cups, or even the smaller store-bought plastic bottles of water.
  4. Stay hydrated IN-BETWEEN meals! Often times, in-between meals, the signal we receive from our brain that we interpret as hunger, is actually thirst (they’re very similar, and very often confused). So now that you know this, try reaching for that water bottle rather than that unhealthy snack to satisfy the signal. Imagine if you could curb that snack craving with 8-16 ounces of calorie-free, fat-free, sugar-free, sodium-free, preservative-free water!
  5. Stay AHEAD of your brain! You know you’ve properly hydrated when you’re ahead of your brain. By the time you receive the “I’m thirsty” signal, it’s often too late. Hydrate all day long with water, avoid running the risk of dehydration...then, sit back and watch the health benefits begin to manifest!
  6. Drink on a SCHEDULE! Sometimes you can have the water bottle, have every intention of getting your ounces in that day, but because of a busy work/school schedule, taking sips throughout the course of the day just slips your mind. If you’re one of those who don’t get in enough water because of lack of remembering to, trust me, you’re not alone. For people in this category, I recommend creating a hydration schedule. For instance, if you need to get in 80 oz/day, then map it out according to how many hours you’ll be awake. For instance, if you wake up at 7am and go to bed at 10pm, then you have 15 hours to map out. This could be something as simple as agreeing to drink just 5-6 ounces (less than a cup) each hour. Or, you can say, by lunchtime, I should have 30 oz down, by the time I clock out from work I should have another 30 oz down, leaving just 20 oz to get in before, during and after dinner. Then, once you’ve mapped it out, set alerts on your phone! They can go off at whatever increments you need, popping up on your screen saying something like “drink me” or “8 ounces”. You can even download apps that help in tracking your daily water intake and providing reminders to drink.  
  7. Get creative with the TASTE! For those who don’t drink much water because it is tasteless and “boring”, then feel free to spice things up a bit. You can infuse your water with fresh fruits that not only add flavor, but health benefits as well. For instance, any berry will add antioxidant qualities, lemons and key limes will add alkalinizing qualities and grapefruit will add metabolism boosting qualities. You can also add mint leaves, a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, cucumber slices, etc. You can switch it up to have a new, refreshing taste experience each day!
  8. Herbal teas COUNT! If you’re a tea drinker, then feel free to add the ounces of water from your tea mug to your daily water intake. Herbal teas are a great way to sneak in more water hydration, with the additional benefits that the tea itself may bring. Ginger tea, mint tea, chamomile tea, green tea, etc…just be sure to keep the sugar content down (or even substituted all together with a teaspoon of raw organic honey). Even starting your mornings with just warm water and the juice from a freshly sliced lemon or key lime (no tea bag needed) carries tremendous health benefits!
  9. Always ORDER water! When out to eat, try to get in the habit of ordering water. Servers are trained to entice you by going on and on about getting you a sweet tea, a coke or a flavored lemonade because of the upcharge in sales. It has nothing to do with what’s GOOD for you. You can ease into this by initially ordering water along with your current beverage of choice, so that once you finish the glass of your beverage of choice you can reach for that glass of water to quench your thirst for the rest of the meal (no refills on the other beverage needed). Once you start consuming more water, in every environment you are in, your palate will adjust and your body will begin to actually crave water, making this process easier and easier for you!
  10. Keep ONLY water at home! If you come to my house right now, aside from some almond milk, the only beverage I’d have to offer you is water. This is not because I haven’t gone grocery shopping…this is intentional. When I am thirsty, I cannot honestly expect myself to be disciplined enough EVERY single time to open my refrigerator and bypass juices, sodas, sports drinks, etc. for water. So I just cut all of the competition and distraction out of the picture. I advise others to do the same. It sets the tone not only for your own health, but for your family’s health as well. Convenience always wins, and if water is what’s most conveniently available in your kitchen, it’s what you’ll find yourself consuming the most of at home.

If you are doing all ten tips listed above consistently (not just a few every now and then), then there is no reason for you to NOT be getting in your daily water requirement. In fact, many will hit their daily goals without needing to do ALL ten tips, which is awesome too!

Please be sure to read the third and final part of this blog, where I’ll go into the different TYPES of water available on the market, highlighting which are the best and which are the worst! We’ll clear the air on a few things, bust a few myths and wrap up this blog series on my favorite drink!

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

www.returning2nature.com

FB: www.facebook.com/returning2nature

IG: @returning2nature