I assume all of you know how important breathing is to live. We all know that we need air, however, do we realize what breathing means? What it does for us and how important for our health it is? I am a vampire fan, and I often joke with my friends to not forget to breathe, however, this is more of a thing than I initially thought of. Breathing with a consciousness, taking deep breaths, and holding your deep breath for a few seconds before exhaling can actually do a lot more for you than you may realize. Breathing correctly is also a massive game-changer in so many exercises, varying from yoga, jogging up to actually weight lifting! We all know that breathing is key in meditation and therefore also helps to reduce stress and lets us hold onto our mental health! Something that we take so for granted, is not only vital for our lives but changing how we breathe may also change how we live! So as my introduction to physical exercise, I am going to start with the simplest and most important step of them all: Breathing.
How does breathing help so much?
Again I can assume that most of you know that breathing delivers oxygen to our bloodstream which in turn will transport oxygen all around the body. This can lead to the assumption that all of our body needs oxygen, and that is true. Taking a few deep breaths every day will ensure that all of your body gets enough fresh oxygen to function properly and so, breathing affects every single aspect of your health.
Breathing right during exercise
However, did you know that breathing correctly during your exercise can not only help you feel less fatigued and more energetic but also reduce the risk of pain and injuries? This happens as you will be reducing the stress on your muscles with your breath. True, exercise is there to give us a workout, however, workout and stress aren’t to be confused with one another. Exercising more than your muscles can tolerate will lead to injuries, with the right breathing you will be able to perform better for longer without burning yourself out.
The three main functions of your breath to reduce injury risk are:
- Keeping stress levels down to reduce fatigue
- Ensures your working muscles and tissues are getting the necessary oxygen to function properly
- Keeps your joints lubricated reducing stress
The best way to breathe
The best way to breathe is belly breathing, this is a technique where you breathe deep and welcome the oxygen to your belly, thus engaging your diaphragm in your breath. This will actually help you increase the amount of oxygen you take in during a single breath and is more efficient during exercise. However, this technique may need practice and thus is recommended to be practiced before you actually start incorporating it during your exercise.
It is just as important that you avoid breathing from your mouth as much as you can! Not only will this allow you to gulp in unfiltered air and therefore make you more prone to inhaling viruses and bacteria, but also this will dehydrate you quickly and therefore ends up heating your body more and increase the feeling of fatigue. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth is actually the best practice for efficient breathing both for cooling down and also purifying your system.
When you exhale and inhale also plays a vital role in your breathing technique if you are breathing during exercise. Inhaling increases core stability so this is done to embrace yourself and prepare for your bigger exercise portion, while exhaling is usually done during the move. To break it down a little, in weightlifting you inhale before you start your workout, exhale while you lift, and inhale again while you return to your starting position. During yoga, you generally inhale during your lengthening stretches while you exhale during your twists or your crouching positions. If you are starting any particular exercise or you are practicing one already, do some research about appropriate breathing during said exercise, I personally found breathing right a game-changer in all the exercises I tried!
1. With COVID being around let’s start with recovery breathing. This technique is suggested to recover your lungs and respiratory system after the damage was inflicted. It is important that you do not start this technique while you are still sick and stop immediately if you start feeling tired, pain, or dizzy.
- Lie on your bed and bend your feet, letting the bottom of your feet rest on your bed.
- Place your hands on your stomach creating slight pressure
- With your mouth closed and tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth start pulling in air to your chest and stomach
- Try to lift your hands with your breath, filling up your lungs
- Exhale slowly from your mouth
- Try to keep this up for a minute
Once that starts being easy (in a few days or so) start step 2.
- Lie on your stomach with your hands under your head to allow room to breathe comfortably
- Repeat the previous steps but this time focus on your stomach pushing your mattress down (or lifting you up slightly)
Once this becomes easy, start doing the same steps but sitting down in a stable position with your hands on your chest and stomach. When even this becomes easy do the exercise standing up and finally when your breath seems to be good enough start incorporating a little movement, lifting your hands up over your head with your breath in and back down with your breath out. You may also wish to start chanting with your mouth closed to strengthen your breath more.
2. Another breathing technique is a much simpler one, used to deepen the breath and simple enough to master quickly and be applied to your exercises right away.
- Relax your neck and shoulders while keeping your spine straight
- Inhale through your nose while slowly counting to two
- Blow your exhale from your mouth while continuing counting to 4
- Increase your count slowly as your breath deepens (or count slower)
3. Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique to deepen your breath even deeper (this is very useful for singers).
- Lie on your back with your knees raised and your feet down (you can place a pillow under your knees)
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach
- Try to breathe in through your nose with your mouth closed without moving your chest, feeling the breath fill your belly.
- Once this becomes easy, start increasing some pressure on your abdomen (placing a heavy book or pushing slightly with your hand) and lift with your breath.
- Once you have mastered the technique you can practice during your daily chores.
4. This may sound funny, however, it is good for your heart, lowering the rate as you breathe. This technique is alternate nostril technique.
- In a comfortable seating position lift up your right hand to your nose.
- Exhale and close your right nostril with your thumb.
- Inhale through your left nostril then close it with your ring finger and your pinky.
- Release your right nostril to exhale.
- Inhale through your right nostril.
- Close your right nostril and release your left nostril to exhale.
- Keep repeating for 5 minutes finishing with an exhale from your left nostril.
5. Cleansing breath is probably the deepest breath we are going to touch. Here we are going to try and send oxygen to every part of our body. Of course, practice makes perfect, so this will grow slowly.
- Start sitting, kneeling, or standing, keeping your spine straight (head over heart, heart over hips).
- Take a deep breath and try to feel it travel down to your lower lunges, inflating your abdomen, and traveling to slightly rotating your tighs forward. Finally, fill your upper lungs letting your chest expand.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Through your mouth blow forcefully a short breath (as if you’re trying to blow off a candle). Try to hold the rest of your breath a little longer and repeat until you blow out all your breath.
- Repeat a couple of times. You should start to feel refreshed after these breaths.
6. If you use your vocal cords a lot (this is for all of the teachers out there), try the following sequence.
- Take a slow breath through your nose trying to prologue the inhale as much as you can.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Open your mouth wide and exhale with one strong big exhalation.
- Rest your lungs with a cycle of cleansing breath (point 5 above)
7. And last but not least, let’s add one breathing technique that will help us relax and fight stress. This simple technique should help against stress, anxiety, and panic. It’s best if you do this as a daily routine. If you have the time, getting some ambient music and imagining yourself in a calming atmosphere should help relax you more.
- Place your feet roughly hip-width apart (you can do this both standing or seated with your feet steady on the ground).
- Breath in letting your breath fill your belly without forcing it, (deep but comfortable breathing)
- Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- You may want to imagine good vibes coming in with the fresh air and stress and negative emotions leaving your body as you exhale.
- Try counting as you breathe in and try to time your exhale to be on the same count (count till 3 breathing in and again till 3 breathing out).
- In this cycle do not hold your breath between your inhale and exhale, just breathe fluently.
- Keep this up for at least 3 minutes.
I hope you will find this helpful and try some techniques yourselves, or maybe you have a breathing technique you use already and would like to share. Leave us your thoughts and comments below, or maybe there is a particular technique not mentioned here and you would like our bat to dig deeper into it! Just let us know.