There’s a lot of talk these days about the benefits of deep breathing. The conversation is not new. Breathing techniques have been advocated for centuries, especially by ancient religious masters. Scientific studies show that controlled breathing can reduce stress, increase mental focus and enhance immune function.
There are a variety of descriptions for breathing practices, most notably “deep breathing” and “diaphragmatic breathing.” Both are defined by experts as integrative body-mind training using breath control through inhalation and exhalation.
Here are four exercises to try
Use the following exercises when you find yourself feeling tense, anxious, or stressed. They can be especially useful at the outset of a workout or when you’re trying to shake off the effects of a busy day.
• Sit or stand tall.
• Take a breath in and thoroughly exhale, expelling all the air out of your lungs.
• Inhale naturally. Allow your lungs to naturally fill with fresh air.
• Repeat, thoroughly exhaling and thoroughly inhaling.
• Notice how your lungs become like a vacuum, completely filling.
• Repeat for two minutes.
• Sit with relaxed neck and shoulders, or lie down with knees bent.
• Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
• Take a breath in through your nose and notice your belly rise. Do your best to maintain a still chest.
• Exhale through your mouth as you push the air out with assistance from your abdomen.
• Continue for two to five minutes.
Fist Clench with Diaphragmatic Breath
• Clench your fists tightly as you take a deep diaphragmatic breath, and hold it for a count of ten.
• Exhale thoroughly and completely, as you let your body go limp.
• Repeat five to ten times.
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Outdoor Fitness Breathing Tip
As you climb hills and stairs, it’s important to control your breathing. Don’t let your breathing control you. This leads to gasping, slowing down, feeling ill, going anaerobic. Breathing is a health and fitness tool. When you learn how to use your breathing to your advantage, your workouts will become easier and less stressed.
“Low and Slow”
When climbing, get into a rhythmic breathing pattern in which you slowly inhale and fully exhale: Easy in, easy out. You’ll find, as with your reverse breathing technique, that you are able to really expand your lungs and take in more air. The key here is deep in the lower lobes of your lungs there is greater density of alveoli, the little grape-like clusters where oxygen exchange occurs, feeding your body and brain with this precious fuel. Practice the phrase: “low and slow” and your body will naturally follow along. More than anything, this technique will help you to relax and breathe properly, circulating oxygen throughout your brain and body. Your legs will burn less, and you will find you have energy to burn!