4 deep breathing tips that can change your life

Jorge Cruise has written 32 books about carbs, calories and how to blast belly fat. But for his latest, “The 3 Choices,” he’s focusing on the “inner, rather than outer, transformation.”

The Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer and nutritionist, who has worked with Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey and Angelina Jolie, cites focused, mindful breathing as a critical component of good health, and he makes it one of the three cornerstones in his book. (The other two are self-acceptance and movement.)

Cruise said he realized the importance of good breathing when, eight years ago, his "life unraveled." He and his then-wife had two children and a beautiful home, and he was living what appeared to be a dream life.

Until he realized he was gay.

"It wasn't anything that I'd planned," Cruise said recently by phone from New York, where he was on a book tour. "I went through a divorce, and it was the darkest period of my life. I literally couldn't get up off the floor."

His sister, Marta, moved in with him for two weeks, and together they started taking deep, focused breaths.

"Breath is what saved me," he said. "It helped me turn off the stress."

Cruise now uses that experience to coach people on the power of good breathing. Here, he shares a few of his practices:

4-7-8 breathing

Proponents say this technique, also known as “diaphragmatic breathing,” can help lower blood pressure, sharpen the memory and reduce stress if practiced regularly. Here’s how to do it: Inhale through the nose for a count of four, and concentrate on pushing the air into the belly instead of the chest. Hold the breath for seven seconds. Exhale slowly through the mouth for a count of eight. Repeat for a couple of minutes, to start.

"It's the most foundational way to oxygenate the body," Cruise said.

Bypass the wine, junk food and TV

When stress has you reaching for a crutch — a drink, a sugary treat or the remote — sit up straight and breathe until the cravings pass, Cruise said.

"There is nothing beneficial about drinking alcohol, even if people do it to relax. If we don't take a minute to breathe, the temptation is to have a drink, or just lay down on the couch and watch TV," he says.

Set your alarm

Every hour, get up from your desk, walk around, have a drink of water and take a couple of minutes to get in some deep breathing.

"It's a centering tool," Cruise said.

Use technology

Yes, there are apps for this. Cruise recommends Breathe, installed by default in the Apple Watch OS 3; users are prompted to focus on deep breathing for a minute every four hours. Others to try: Calm and Breathing Zone.

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