How Breathing Techniques Can Improve Your Quality of Life
In. Out. In. Out. We don’t think about it, don’t agonize over it. It’s just as natural as, well, breathing. It’s something we take for granted and something most of us never have to worry about. Thinking about your breath and being able to control it can deliver all sorts of health benefits. For example, deliberately copying relaxed breathing techniques can lead to a calmer frame of mind. The problem is most people have very little knowledge about what techniques to use. Here are three helpful techniques and the situations when they might come in handy.
Breathing While Running and Exercising
Most new runners don’t pay nearly as much attention to their breath as they do the rest of their body. A good way to know if you’re using enough of your lungs is to lie on you back with your feet planted on the ground and your hands resting lightly on your stomach.
Take a few deep breaths. Is your chest moving? Or is your stomach moving?
If only your chest is moving, you’re not breathing deep enough. Abdominal breathing means that your lungs are filled to capacity and that you’re getting much-needed oxygen to your muscles as you run.
When you start to run, make sure you’re breathing as deeply as possible and using those deep belly breaths to prevent side stitches and breathlessness.
Now that you’ve learned how deeply to breathe, it’s time to learn how to breathe rhythmically.
New runners especially tend to breathe on their dominant leg, meaning they inhale on their dominant side, left or right, and then exhale on their non-dominant side. It’s a sure sign they’re not taking deep enough breaths. Practice slow and steady inhalations and exhalations to make sure your entire body is getting saturated with oxygen. Keep in mind that as your feet strike the ground with every stride, you’re strengthening rather than weakening your core. The force of the impact that running has is roughly two to three times your body weight, according to a recent article on Runnersworld.com. That’s a lot of weight if you’re not prepared for it, and your body can sustain some pretty serious injuries if you don’t practice those rhythmic breaths.
Stress Relief Breathing
Anxious? Angry? Otherwise upset? Try this technique:
You can calm your body down by first, isolating yourself for 10 to 20 minutes in a quiet space and lying down flat. If you’re worried about time, set an alarm. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose and then, slowly, out through your mouth.
Repeat this process until you start feeling those telltale signs of stress melt away.
Breathing for Sleep
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, insomnia is more common as we age and can lead to all sorts of health conditions, including weight gain, high blood pressure and a whole host of other maladies that we’d rather do without. When insomnia strikes, try this:
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale for 8 counts.
- Repeat the sequence 3 times.
If you are still wound up, concentrate on nothing but your breath and repeat until you start to drift away…
So for all you insomniacs, runners, and anxiety-prone workers out there, I hope these techniques help you out!
Want more types of breathing exercises to try? Comment below with the malady you’d like to see a technique for and we’ll see what we can do!