Michael Phelps knows a thing or two about breathing exercises, but the decorated Olympian is now taking his strategies outside the pool.
In a TODAY interview with Carson Daly on Friday, Phelps shared how he taught his kids a simple breathing exercise to calm their anxiety.
It’s called a lion breath.
“A lion breath is simple, it's just a deep breath. And at times, if they're feeling super high anxiety or they're frustrated, you just let out a gigantic roar,” Phelps said. “So, you know, there is a lot of roaring in the house at times.”
Dr. Shannon Curry, clinical psychologist and director of the Curry Psychology Group in Orange County, California, confirmed that when done correctly, breathing exercises can help to calm our bodies and reduce anxiety.
“When we become anxious, our body reacts as though we are in the face of danger,” she explained. “Our sympathetic nervous system engages, pumping blood and oxygen to our heart and large muscle groups like the arms and legs so that we're prepared to fight or flee — the ‘fight or flight response’.”
Curry shared that the most important aspect of controlled breathing is to prevent the over-intake of oxygen and recommends counting each inhale and exhale.
“All people benefit from breathing techniques which reduce both physiological and psychological stress and can boost our mood by bringing more mindful awareness to the present moment,” she said.
Phelps and his wife, Nicole, have been open about their family's journey with mental health and Phelps' history of suicidal ideation.
“One day I can wake up and I can feel like I'm on top of the world, and I can do absolutely anything and everything,” the father of three told Daly. “And the next day I can wake up and not wanna get outta bed.”