8 Ways to Keep Your Workouts Body-Positive

The overall theme: Fitness should make you feel good!

~Bettie nailing Reverse Plank at Funland Park in Miami; photo by Bunny Yeager~

~Bettie nailing Reverse Plank at Funland Park in Miami; photo by Bunny Yeager~


Exercise and body positivity can make for confusing bedfellows. On one hand, working out helps you get in closer touch with your body, makes you feel stronger, and helps you appreciate what you can do — all good things!

On the other hand, group-fitness instructors too often preach the “long and lean” gospel, magazines tell you how exercise can give you a “beach body,” and your friends talk about how they need to hit the gym tomorrow to make up for the pizza you’re sharing tonight. Not to mention the proliferation of “fitspo” imagery on social media, which makes it even harder to separate working out from trying to achieve a nearly unattainable body type.

But let me tell you: It is possible to make your fitness routine body-positive. As the creator of the first-ever body-positive workout videos, Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio, and Bettie Page Yoga, I'm always encouraging exercisers to think like Page (who, though you may not know it, was an old-school body-positivity icon!): She loved to move her glorious body in lots of different ways and didn’t give a lick about a bit of cellulite here or a belly bulge there. I rounded up some of my favorite body-positive fitness tips, along with input from a few experts I love. The overall theme: Fitness should make you feel good.

~Tori and crew in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video~

~Tori and crew in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video~

❤️ Don’t Do It To Earn Food. Just go ahead right now and disentangle food from any strange equations based on exercise. Getting those two bound up — “How many minutes on the treadmill would this brownie cost me?” — can drain the joy out of both, and is even a feature of certain eating disorders when it becomes extreme. Old-school fitness culture and thinspo have us conditioned to think we have to work up an appetite and “run off” calories. We don’t. It’s not a zero-sum game. If you’re taking generally good care of your body, it knows just how to deal with indulgences and excess. Food: You don’t have to earn it, you just have to eat it. Bon appétit.

❤️ Do Take The Inside-Out View. “Don’t be attached to a number as a goal,” says Kathryn Budig, a yoga teacher and author of the recently released book Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance! “Focus on how you feel, not on how you look.” This taps into mindfulness, which a new study linked with less focus on appearance and more exercising for internally motivated reasons such as the health and mood benefits. And, of course, yoga helps: In the study, an eight-week yoga program helped in these areas while also improving mindfulness.

~Total babe showing off her excellent Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)~

~Total babe showing off her excellent Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)~

❤️ Do Express Your Gratitude. Yes, do it even if it feels corny at first. Budig suggests trying this project, similar to one from her book: “Write your body a love letter! If you remind yourself that you and your body are on the same team, you’re more likely to go into your workout feeling connected and ready to progress without judgment.” Describe at least five things you appreciate about your body, and add to it over time as you think of more. Give it a glance when the two of you are at odds.

Burlesque sensation Dita Von Teese illustrates Budig’s point perfectly: “I remind myself of how fortunate I am that I have the physical capabilities to exercise, that I am grateful to my body for serving me well, and exercising is a way to thank it!” Von Teese is the author of Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour, which emphasizes uniqueness and self-appreciation. “I try to replace any negative thoughts I might have about how my body looks with something positive about what amazing things it does for me — how well it works, letting me walk, stand, jump, and dance.”

❤️ Don’t Bore Your Body. It only reinforces that tired “exercise-as-torture” myth when your workout starts feeling like same ol’ drudgery. Body-positive fitness is about pleasure, not punishment. Try as many different types of movement as you reasonably can and want to, including some not-so-obvious options. “I’ve always done Pilates and ballet, but I’ve also done yoga, Zumba, water aerobics, hiking, stretch classes, Body Rolling, trampoline, and fencing lessons, all for the sake of finding new ways to get moving,” Von Teese says. “I recently started seeing a CrossFit trainer and I love it. It’s a whole new world that is such a departure from Pilates and ballet, and it’s keeping me interested.”

~Dita Von Teese taking fencing lessons with Olympic silver medalist Tim Morehouse~

~Dita Von Teese taking fencing lessons with Olympic silver medalist Tim Morehouse~

❤️ Do What You Can. Respect your body’s limits, and set your own pace. “If you have to cut out of a class early because you can’t do anymore, that’s okay — give yourself credit for going and getting halfway through,” says San Francisco-based fashion blogger Chastity Garner Valentine of GarnerStyle. It’s far wiser — and kinder — to work your way up slowly than to get hurt or burned-out and end up not exercising at all. Challenge your body when you can, and back off when needed. If there are moves you’d like to try, but they feel out of reach based on your fitness or mobility level, ask a personal trainer or group-fitness instructor to show you some modifications that might work better for you.

❤️ Don’t Make It All About Weight. “I don’t work out to lose weight anymore,” says Kierra Sheard, a Grammy-nominated gospel singer, actress, and blogger. She exercises to protect her heart health — and her relationships. For instance, she might do a kickboxing class when she’s pissed off, she says. “That’s also a form of self-love to me — it allows me to release my anger and stress, and to maintain my character by not doing what I would really like to do to some people” in certain ultra-annoying situations. Bonus: Regular exercise helps boost body image, suggests a 2013 study published in PLOS ONE.

~Marilyn rocks a Shoulder Stand variation~

~Marilyn rocks a Shoulder Stand variation~

❤️ Do It For The Countless Health Perks. Exercise can reduce stress and the risk of various diseases while improving mood and longevity, and it just makes you feel better. “Any time that I feel tired or even on the verge of getting sick, I find that working out makes me feel more energized,” Von Teese says. Consider fitness a tool you can use anytime that has both short-term and long-term gains.

❤️ Do It For You. Avoid the comparison game at all costs. It rarely helps, always hurts, and you can’t measure your success with someone else’s yardstick. You’re on a completely different path than everyone else around you (including on social media!), so “be kind and patient with yourself,” says Blake Von D, a Chicago-based lawyer and style blogger. “As long as you’re enjoying yourself and are proud of your journey, you’re on the right track.” As sappy as this may sound, this concept is crucial for staying consistent with exercise and keeping it body-positive: Working toward self-acceptance and self-compassion is essential, or else we’re right back to all that punishment stuff.

~This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on Refinery29.com~

New Bettie Book Announcement!

A lifestyle guide inspired by the Queen of Pinups, Bettie Page, The Little Book of Bettie offers real advice on fashion, makeup, fitness, and more for today's modern woman who loves a little dose of retro.

~ The Little Book of Bettie is scheduled for release on May 8, 2018 ~

~ The Little Book of Bettie is scheduled for release on May 8, 2018 ~

I’m beyond thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of my first book, with none other than Queen Bettie as the subject and foreword by our modern-day goddess, Dita Von Teese!! (Somehow, I’ve managed to keep this under wraps for almost a year, and you have no idea how much self-restraint that took!)

This gem is called The Little Book of Bettie: Taking a Page from the Queen of Pinups, and its scheduled release date is May 8, 2018. (See pre-order link at bottom.) Here’s the scoop:

The celebrated Queen of Pinups styled her own iconic hair, did her own makeup, fashioned her own swimsuits, and was ahead of her time in endless ways, making her a source of inspiration to stars like Madonna, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry. Against the backdrop of the conservative 1950s, Bettie Page was an advocate of pleasure, fun, liberation, and body-positivity. There's so much to be learned from her!

Within The Little Book of Bettie you'll find:

* Bettie's remarkable backstory

* Retro fashion and styling tips

* Vintage hair and makeup lessons

* Bettie-inspired fitness routines

* DIY pinup accessory how-tos

* Advice from "Bettie Babes" like Dita Von Teese, modern-day pinups and entertainers, and everyday women who love Bettie!

Filled with both color and black-and-white images, The Little Book of Bettie is a beautifully gifty, celebratory look at the groundbreaking style of one of the greatest icons of pop culture. 

About the Author:

Tori Rodriguez is the blog editor for BettiePage.com, manages Bettie’s official social media pages, and has written about her for various leading publications. She is a freelance journalist, licensed psychotherapist, health and fitness expert, singer-songwriter, and creator of Bettie Page Fitness. Tori lives in Atlanta.

~Click HERE to pre-order The Little Book of Bettie!

~Click HERE to shop Bettie Page yoga mats, fitness videos & more!

Bettie Page Fitness Diagonal Crunch

This photo of Bettie inspired the diagonal crunch we do in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video. Get the full workout at bettiepagefitness.com (click announcement bar at top of this page to shop!), and try this crunch in the meantime

Bottom: Still shot of Tori in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video; Top: the Bettie pose that inspired this move.

Bottom: Still shot of Tori in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video; Top: the Bettie pose that inspired this move.

Start with your right ankle on your left knee, hands behind your ears or head and elbows out. Crunch as far as you can toward the right knee, aiming your left shoulder (not the elbow) toward your right knee. Do a total of 12 full reps, then do 12 pulses at the top of the crunch. Repeat on other side, then do each side twice more for a total of 3 sets.

*Make it easier: Keep one arm down (the one on the side of the lifted foot) with your hand touching the ground.

*Make it harder: At the top of each regular crunch (not the pulses), extend the left arm straight out past your right leg (opposite for other side, of course).

The Yoga Star & the Pin-up Queen

Talking yoga, body love and Bettie Page with Kathryn Budig

Badass babes in beautiful backbends! (Pose: Anuvittasana) ~Page photo: Bunny Yeager; Budig photo: Cheyenne Ellis

Badass babes in beautiful backbends! (Pose: Anuvittasana) ~Page photo: Bunny Yeager; Budig photo: Cheyenne Ellis

Though Kathryn Budig might object to being called a yoga superstar, she certainly is one to me–and not just because she can rock some of the most mind-blowing, beautiful poses I’ve ever seen. Her teaching style is fun, strong and transformative, in both the asana practice and the nuggets of how-to-do-life wisdom that she drops throughout her classes and writing. She is a noted champion of body positivity, authenticity and self-acceptance–much like beloved pinup queen Bettie Page–and that’s why I thought Budig would be an excellent person to interview for BettiePageFitness.com.

Learn more about her new book, Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance! and check out what she had to say below about fearless eating, self-love, and of course, Bettie Page.

Bettie Page Fitness (BPF): Congrats on your new book! I strongly suspect from its description and name that readers can expect lots of that signature, infectious Kathryn Budig joy and encouragement to embrace ourselves as we are while challenging ourselves with love–to me, that is the essence of body-positive fitness! Am I right, and what else can we look forward to in the book?

Kathryn Budig (KB): Of course! I put a lot of time and effort into the thought process behind creating this book, because I didn’t want to turn it into another self-help book that lists all the things that are wrong with you. I wanted to start from a place of encouraging the reader to understand that where they are right now is fantastic, but then ask them the following question: What are the tools we can develop to make ourselves even better?

Kathryn Budig always aims true! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

Kathryn Budig always aims true! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: One of the things that jumped out at me–and which I love–is the part of your book’s title that says “Eat Without Fear.” As a psychotherapist, fitness expert and Ayurvedic health coach specializing in food and body image issues, I believe that’s a powerful message that can’t be shared enough. Can you say more about it and what prompted you to make it an area of focus in your book?

KB: I’m an avid lover of food, but I’ve also been in the health world for years, and so I’m highly educated on the value and details of nutrition. And I’ve found that most people differentiate between “health” and “enjoyment.” They convince themselves they can either eat decadent or they can eat healthy. I wanted to bridge the gap, because I believe that you can nourish your body without taking away any of the enjoyment that food brings. I love that the world is moving in a direction that’s more conscious of food decisions, but sometimes that seems to also become very restrictive and creates neuroses, so I try to give people the tools to create true balance in the way they eat. So, eat that kale salad, but don’t be afraid to pair it with a glass of red wine!

 Eat and drink without fear, a la Kathryn Budig! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

 Eat and drink without fear, a la Kathryn Budig! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: I often take your classes on YogaGlo.com and read your work online. I’m a huge fan, and it has struck me that some of the head and heart stuff that you teach in class is similar to the things I teach clients one on one. You are incredibly wise, insightful and therapeutic! What steered you down the path of being such a fierce advocate for self-care, self-acceptance and authentic living?

KB: I think everything starts with how you take care of yourself as an individual, and I desire nothing less than to live the most embodied, passionate life possible. And in order to do that, I have to know what lights my fire and what makes my heart beat, but I also have to – as cliché as it sounds – absolutely love myself. So it starts with the self work and then, in doing that and discovering what works for me, offering that to my students, so that we can all help each other love who we are and support each other in that endeavor.

 It starts with you... know and love thyself! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

 It starts with you... know and love thyself! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: Whether in fitness or life in general, what are some things that help you treat yourself with kindness and compassion rather than with criticism and perfectionist pressure?

KB: Perspective. It’s called being human, and the human condition is to be objective and critical, so I don’t know if there’s ever such a thing as quelling that voice, but I’ve found that if I take a moment to step back when I’ve moved into a place of negativity, that often it allows me to see the bigger picture and not just the fictional story that I’ve told myself that has usually led me to the negative space.

BPF: Clearly, Bettie Page is one of my fitness and life muses. Who are some of your top sources of inspiration in either or both areas?

KB: Seane Corn has been a huge mentor, guide and friend on my journey and she was the first person to tell me that I had a voice and that it was important that I use it. Also, Maty Ezraty trained me and will always be my teacher and I owe my teaching career to her. Ashi, my 10-year-old Puggle, has been with me every step of the way and constantly reminds me of what actually matters in life when I start to go off the deep end. And finally, my friends and family are the ultimate support system. They listen to me even when I’m completely irrational. They humor me and keep it real.  

Bettie Page flips her dog on the beach; Kathryn Budig snuggles with her Puggle, Ashi! ~~Page photo by Bunny Yeager; Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis

Bettie Page flips her dog on the beach; Kathryn Budig snuggles with her Puggle, Ashi! ~~Page photo by Bunny Yeager; Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: I was so surprised and excited when I realized Bettie was into yoga, first from her photos and then from firsthand accounts of people who knew her. What are your thoughts about her yoga-esque poses?

KB: They’re beautiful. They’re reminiscent of the famous Marilyn Monroe yoga photos, and both women embody that old-world glamour that somehow seems to be lost today. I love the combination of playfulness and sexiness. It always brings me joy to see an empowered woman embracing who she is.

 A modern yogi and a retro yogi open their hearts in Camel Pose (Ustrasana)  ~~Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis; Page photo by Irving Klaw

 A modern yogi and a retro yogi open their hearts in Camel Pose (Ustrasana)  ~~Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis; Page photo by Irving Klaw

BPF: Where do you think someone like Bettie–a working model in NYC, generally–would have learned yoga back then? Marilyn Monroe is said to have perhaps learned from Indra Devi’s writings, and there are those beautiful photos you mentioned of her in various yoga poses. But it's not known where Bettie learned, though she did work out at the gym regularly and could have learned from someone there.

KB: It’s hard to say–maybe she learned from books. That was an era where yoga was still predominantly male, and Indra was incredible innovative and the first of her kind. So, I’m not entirely sure where Bettie would have learned from, but it shows that she had some prowess and moxie, learning wherever she could. 

Pinup Plow Pose! Bettie & Marilyn in their own variations of Halasana ~Page photo by Irving Klaw; Monroe photo by Ed Cronenweth

Pinup Plow Pose! Bettie & Marilyn in their own variations of Halasana ~Page photo by Irving Klaw; Monroe photo by Ed Cronenweth

It has been an absolute fan-girl pleasure to interview you, Kathryn! Thank you so much for all the goodness you bring to my life and to the world! 

    Glitter kisses! Bye for now, Beautiful!  xoxoxo  ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

    Glitter kisses! Bye for now, Beautiful!  xoxoxo  ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

Just Say No to Dieting: Here’s a Kinder, Gentler Approach to Health

How to drop the weight-loss focus, get healthy, and feel good about yourself

body pos bikini bodies.jpg


Want to enhance your self-esteem and body image, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce depression, lessen your chance of developing an eating disorder, and quadruple your physical activity level? (I know - it’s a no-brainer.) Sounds like quite a challenge, but that’s exactly what a group accomplished in a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Think they did it by dieting? Think again.

Their success was due to their participation in a program called “Health at Every Size” (HAES), a non-diet approach that focuses on self-acceptance, intuitive eating, and mindful exercise. Throughout a two-year period, the HAES group was compared to a group of dieters to assess improvements in health. The findings show that the dieters worsened or remained the same on all levels after initially losing weight, most of which they had gained back by the end of the study, while 92% of the HAES folks maintained their healthy behaviors.

This holiday season, as many of us are gearing up – again – to lose weight, let’s finally accept that dieting doesn’t work and can actually cause mental and physical health problems. I propose that this year and going forward, instead of setting ourselves up for disappointment, let’s give ourselves the gift of good self-care by making better health our priority instead of thinness. Check out the tips below to start enjoying the benefits of HAES.

willpower gave up dieting haes body pos.jpg

♥  Accept yourself as you are right now, regardless of your weight. That doesn’t mean you have to like it or that you can never try to change it (though I would strongly encourage ongoing self-reflection about why you feel you MUST change it even if you are consistently eating well, exercising, and otherwise taking good care of your health), but it does mean you don’t put off liking yourself for when you weigh less. It’s hard enough to make lifestyle changes without constantly beating yourself up, so make self-compassion a priority and be gentle with yourself. Plus: be aware of and resist societal and media pressure to be thin.

♥  Focus on nourishment instead of deprivation. Rather than fixating on what you can’t eat, aim to give your body what it needs to function optimally. Consult a dietitian if you need some guidance, but be aware that many dietitians take the old-school, unscientific weight-loss and diet-y approach. Look for one who embraces the HAES approach or overlapping approaches like intuitive eating.

♥  Remember that nourishment includes sometimes indulging in foods you love that aren’t perhaps the top nutritional picks. The more you restrict your eating, the higher your risk of getting caught in the binge/deprive cycle typical of disordered eating.

♥  Don’t make your moods and self-worth contingent on whether you had a “good” food day or a “bad” food day. Instead, strive for “good enough”, and recognize that your worth as a person is independent of the food you put in your body. Of course, chronically feeding yourself unhealthy foods could signify issues that need to be addressed.

♥  Emphasize the process over the outcome. Think long-term and focus on healthy behaviors you can comfortably do every day instead of fixating on weight loss. This results in sustained health gains because the motivation is internal versus external - how you feel and what works for you, instead of how you look and what others think about it. Obsessing about appearance deters you from doing what’s best for your body and makes you more likely to take extreme measures. Aim for better health instead of better-looking, and you can’t go wrong.


Go here to read the basic principles of HAES along with some eye-opening facts and statistics about dieting and weight loss culture: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=161

Check out these books by the creator of HAES:

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About your Weight

Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight

… and this one by Anita Johnston, which isn’t specifically HAES but is anti-deprivation and pro-intuitive eating with lots of beautiful, nourishing language and stories throughout: Eating by the Light of the Moon

Also, search for info and books on intuitive eating and mindful eating

And it might be a little dated but I love this book: The Don't Diet, Live-It! Workbook: Healing Food, Weight and Body Issues, by Andrea Wachter, LMFT, and Marsea Marcus, LMFT

diets just say no body pos.jpeg

The Bettie Page Guide To Body Confidence

The Queen of Pinups inspires women of all sizes and shapes to embrace and express who they are, as they are. Read on for eight Bettie-inspired ways to feel great about yourself.

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli.

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli.


Bettie Page knew "exactly the right poses to make her body look perfect," says famous pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager, whose previously unreleased Bettie photos and commentary are featured in the book, Bettie Page: Queen of Curves, by Petra Mason. Indeed, you’ll notice that one of the many things that sets Bettie apart is her expert grasp of how to accentuate her "holy shit!" figure. She was often lifting, reaching, stretching, twisting, and rejoicing.

She had this obvious confidence and unabashed joy, despite all the challenges she faced in her impoverished, abusive childhood and into adulthood. This is probably one of many things that makes Bettie so appealing to women –who now make up the majority of her fan base, according to filmmaker Mark Mori, director of the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All. She inspires women of all sizes and shapes to embrace and express who they are, as they are. Read on for eight Bettie-inspired ways to feel great about yourself.

bettie curvy beach.jpg


Once turned down by Ford Modeling Agency for being "too curvy," Bettie became arguably the most influential model of all time. She keeps a steady spot on on Forbes’ annual list of top-earning deceased stars, and she’s been a source of style inspiration for everyone from Madonna to Katy Perry. Believe it or not, though, she had no clue she was doing anything special. When Yeager asked Bettie about her pervasive, trendsetting influence, she said, “I wasn’t trying to be anything. I was just myself.” So, take it from the Queen and don’t try too hard. You’re already a badass, even if you don't know it.

bettie bunny cam.jpg


Bettie knew about adopting powerful postures; her poses were open and expansive.* Studies have since found that putting your body in positions like this can actually boost your confidence and body image. So, make a point of taking up more space: Instead of standing slightly hunched with your arms crossed and your head tilted down, stand tall — with your shoulders wide and your chin up. 

[*The Bettie Page Fitness workout DVDs are purposefully packed with power poses! CLICK HERE to get yours!]

bettie bunny color.jpg


Bettie is said to have felt especially comfortable with Yeager because she was a woman (and a pin-up model herself before she picked up the camera), and she was always able to capture Bettie's free and joyful spirit. They only worked together over the course of one summer, but their collaboration made them both legends. Yeager's famous holiday-themed shot of Bettie in 1955 became Playboy's first-ever Christmas centerfold.

bettie and friends beach.jpg


It was rare in Bettie’s time for a woman to go to college, live alone, or support herself — but she did all three. She graduated from college with a teaching degree, but dreamed of being an actress like her icon, Bette Davis. When she was in her early 20s, she moved from her hometown of Nashville to NYC to go to acting school, and she supported herself with administrative jobs before she got into modeling. As a team, Bettie and Yeager were radical, fearless, and trailblazing; here were two young women defying the societal norms of the 1950s, determined to follow their dreams. Even their trips to the beach pushed the envelope: Bikinis were still considered taboo, yet Bettie would typically wear a two-piece — or nothing at all.

bettie bunny collage beach.jpg


Yeager noted that Bettie wore the same simple makeup in just about every shoot. Why keep up with the trends when you're setting one yourself?

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While walking on the beach one day, Bettie met amateur photographer Jerry Tibbs, who suggested that her high forehead would work well with bangs. Bettie went home and chopped them herself, and her iconic look was born. Tibbs’s subsequent photos of her kicked off her career.

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Almost all of the bikinis and lingerie you see in Bettie’s photos were handmade by her. She knew exactly which cuts flattered her figure, so she made them herself — and unwittingly became a style idol, as confirmed by her spot on TIME’s 2012 list of the most influential fashion icons in history. Her designs were so unique that a clothing company stole some and marketed them as their own.

bettie nude boat.jpg


Part of Bettie’s appeal is the boundless joy that seems to jump off the page at you when you look at her photos. “I was...doing my job and enjoyed every bit of it,” she says in Mori’s documentary. She was also clearly comfortable in her own skin, and wasn’t bothered by supposed "imperfections" like cellulite. Bettie reminds us that being real is something to celebrate. 💕

~ This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on Refinery29.com. ~

Breathing Techniques for Less Stress & More Energy

Deeper inhales and exhales may be the easiest route to a happier, healthier existence. Here's how to take advantage

bettie breathing bettie page fitness.jpg


It's crazy to think you could be messing up something you do some 20,000 times a day: inhaling and exhaling. Well, maybe not so much "messing up" as not doing it as efficiently and effectively as you could be.

"When done well, breathing can regulate and revitalize your body, your energy levels, and your mind," says Isaac Eliaz, M.D., director of the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Sebastopol, California. Most people, however, suck in the bare minimum with each inhalation, filling their lungs with half a liter of air (your full lung capacity is at least five to six liters!) and depriving their organs of the O2 they need for peak performance.

The remedy, however, isn't just to gulp more air. The secret to most kinds of beneficial deep breathing--including the diaphragmatic, abdominal, and pranayama varieties--lies in longer, fuller exhalations, which rid your body of carbon dioxide and free up lots of extra space for when you do inhale. Keeping that in mind, read on to reap the many healthy rewards of the almighty breath.

A Stronger Immune System
Deep breathing can build your defenses because of something pretty basic: its relaxation effect. "When you decrease tension and stress, you curb the release of hormones and chemicals that can be detrimental to immune function," says Duck-Hee Kang, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston.

Find Your Breath:
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, keeping your legs and spine straight. Place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.
2. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose and into your abdomen until your lungs are full. Pause for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth, making a quiet whooshing sound, until your lungs are empty. Repeat.

Less Anxiety
It turns out that the way we breathe has a strong effect on our feelings of fear. It's a vicious circle, really: When we're anxious, we tend to take short, shallow breaths, robbing the body of oxygen--and when we take rapid breaths, we're more likely to gasp for air and feel panicky. Long-exhalation breathing may signal the nervous system to slow down, lowering your heart rate and chilling you out.

Find Your Breath:
1. Stand, sit, or lie down, keeping your spine straight.
2. Breathe in for three to five seconds through your nose. Then breathe out very slowly and evenly through your nose, taking twice as long to exhale (six to 10 seconds). Repeat.

For this particular technique, you don't need to breathe into your belly or hold your breath between inhales and exhales, and there's no need to wait until your lungs are completely empty to inhale again. Just follow the timing and try to practice daily for five to 15 minutes.

Better Blood-Sugar Control
In a recent study, people who practiced diaphragmatic breathing for 40 minutes after wolfing down a high-cal, high-carb meal were able to offset many of the energy-zapping effects of over¬indulging (including eventual diabetes risk). Turns out, deep breathing can stimulate the production of insulin, which lowers blood-sugar levels; with more time, it can also nix extra cortisol (a stress hormone) and harmful free radicals, according to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Find Your Breath:
1. Ten minutes after you finish a big meal, sit comfortably in a quiet place, resting one hand on your stomach.
2. Breathe into your belly through your nose for about three seconds. Make sure you can feel your stomach expanding. Breathe out through your nose for three seconds. Repeat.
3. To get the full effect, keep at it for at least 30 minutes.

An Enhanced Attention Span
Make like a Zen monk and combine deep breathing with mindful breathing (the kind used in meditation) to help you focus. A 2011 study found that just one 20-minute session could increase the flow of oxygenated blood to your brain, ramping up activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area associated with concentration. Bonus: This type of breathing also raises levels of the "happy hormone" serotonin, which can help ease symptoms of depression.

Find Your Breath:
Sit comfortably in a quiet, dimly lit room. Close your eyes and relax. 1. Inhale slowly through your nose for six to eight seconds. Focus on the sound of your breath and on breathing deeply into your lower abdomen.
2. Exhale through your nose for nine to 12 seconds. Contract your abdominal muscles as you breathe out. Repeat.
3. Your goal is around three or four breaths per minute. Work up to super-beneficial 20-minute intervals.

Amped-Up Heart Health
If, when you're seriously stressed, you can feel your heart rate increasing, consider pranayama your new best friend. The yoga-based breathing method ensures you're taking in enough oxygen and leads to lowered blood pressure in just two weeks, according to a study in Heart Views. Ideally, you'd practice for around 40 minutes a day, says study author Anita Herur, M.D. Realistically, though, you can try the breathing steps below whenever you have time.

Find Your Breath:
1. Sit or lie in a quiet place.
2. Breathe deeply through your nose for five seconds, then exhale through your nose for five seconds. Repeat this pattern for 10 minutes.
3. Hold your left nostril closed and follow the above breathing pattern, using only your right nostril. Repeat for 10 minutes, then switch nostrils.
4. Continue the breathing pattern, but this time alternate nostrils: Inhale deeply through your right and exhale through your left. Inhale through your left, then exhale through your right, and so on. Repeat the pattern for 10 minutes.

There's no single "right" way to breathe. Generally, though, try to get air through your schnoz, which filters out dirt and bacteria. (Yes, nose hairs are good for something!) Nasal passages also moisten air, making it easier on your lungs. Try to breathe through your mouth only when you are exercising and need to take in large amounts of oxygen at once.

Focus exclusively on the sound and feeling of your breaths for five to 10 minutes. (Once you get the hang of it, you can work up to 20 minutes.) The key, says Kang, is consistency: Try it once a day, three or four times a week, and keep it up for at least several months.

~ This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared in Women's Health Magazine. ~