25 Apr Learn How To Breathe
It sounds simple enough, but when tasked to focus on their breathing most people find it quite challenging. One of the first things I discuss with new clients is deep breathing. I will ask them to take a deep breath then exhale. The response is often what I would describe as a quick huff.
A deep breath should last several seconds on the inhale (I recommend about 8 seconds) and an equal slow and controlled exhale. In addition, when deep breathing for conditioning you should look at your diaphragm as you would any other muscle you are training. When you inhale, take a long deep breath until you feel like your lungs are full. Then inhale a little bit more stretching your lungs, diaphragm and core. Likewise, when exhaling express all of the air out of your lungs, then exhale more. Push every ounce of remaining air from your body. Not only does it open up lesser used airways in your lungs and train you to more fully utilize your full capacity, it conditions and strengthens your core.
When I train for endurance (running and biking) I focus on deep breathing as well. Your ability to take deep breathes and keep your body upright can keep you stronger for longer. Getting as much oxygen into your muscles and controlling your heart rate can help you keep form, avoid injury and finish strong.
However, as I recently was training for swimming, I learned that my approach to breathing did not offer the same benefits during this activity. Although I have been swimming for years, I have always felt that I became much more winded than I should when I’m swimming. I was extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to take some lessons from Lindsey Harrigan and what she taught me has changed my approach to breathing. Instead of focusing on the deep, full breath, I need to focus on a steady, normal, “everyday breathing ” pattern. It’s a new breathing challenge to casually exhale while my face is in the water and time my stroke and head turn to allow for a natural breath.
Although this is a little different from what I have typically emphasized, it does reinforce my overall belief of the importance of being in control and conscious of your breath. Conditioning your body to fully utilize your lungs, training your diaphragm and core to be strong and flexible offer many benefits. Whether you are meditating, stretching, or endurance you cannot overemphasize the value of quality breathing.