We all know that breathing is a natural function of the human body, but what do we really know about the breath besides the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body? I didn’t really know much about breathing till I took up my Yoga practice, and this was years after I’d been active with physical activity. What I’ve learned about the breath changed my life! It gave me a way to release stress and help me perform and function better during any type of physical movement. We all breathe without much thought, it is a part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which functions 24/7 naturally. But we should really consider learning how to breath in certain situations.
I’m not going to bore you with the Science behind breathing, but HERE is a great article if you choose to indulge.
Now as I’ve learned to move and breathe at the same time, I’ve noticed a significant amount of change. The power I have in my body when using the breath and how much more control I have overall. We typically only breathe into a small space within our lungs, which is fine for resting activities. When we start to move the body however, we need to tap into a deeper breath. Which is called Diaphragm Breathing. Now this type of breathing increases the oxygen intake which is needed for higher level of performance. When performed properly the breath also helps with the way the body moves.
For instance-folding forwards with your legs straight. Try this with two different ways of breathing. First, take an inhale as you fold and see how far you can fold forward. Second, exhale completely as you fold forward. Do you notice any difference? You should feel the deeper body position on the exhale.
All of the Yoga Asanas are cued with the breath because as we contract the body we should exhale and as we expand we should inhale. Same goes with lifting weights, as we want to exhale as we contract a muscle and inhale as we extend the muscle. When we get into higher intensity activities like running, cultivating a deep breathe is important. Try running with shallow fast breaths and also running with deep slow breaths. You’ll notice the slower deep breathe gives you better performance and stamina.
I’ve noticed how little control most people have with their breaths. Fortunately, it is something that can be learned to really bring in a different aspect to your life and performance level.