Try these methods to breathe life back into your body.
We can take breathing for granted. We don't usually give it much thought until we find ourselves gasping for breath after a few laps in the pool or struggling to breathe, talk with a friend, and jog all at the same time.
When you do not absorb enough oxygen, your brain begins to stress. Strenuous workouts can take your breath away, causing your body to work hard to return back to normal breathing and your brain to tell you that you are dying and need to stop ASAP. It goes both ways. When your brain begins to stress, your body responds by taking shallower, more ragged breaths. Have you ever noticed that when you feel overwhelmed or anxious, you can't take a deep enough breath? That's what's happening underneath the surface—physical and mental stress affects your breathing.
You can, however, work on healthy breathing habits and better your endurance, flexibility, and strength because better breathing can allow you to push yourself harder in the gym and prevent injury. You can also feel calmer, lower your blood pressure, and learn mindfulness in exercise and life.
First, we will go into the how of deep breathing. When exerting yourself in exercise, you want to take in as much air as possible to fuel your muscles, brain, and energy levels. Here are three techniques that can help you focus on getting a deep enough breath.
Take a deep breath in and count to four, hold your breath at the top for four seconds, let the breath out for four seconds, and hold your breath at the bottom for four seconds. Imagine that each sequence of breathing fills up one side of a square. This mindful technique will help you refrain from shallow or one-sided breathing (maybe you take long inhales and short exhales; or vice versa).
When you are feeling short of breath, try breathing in slowly through your nose while your mouth stays closed. At the top of your breath, purse your lips and breathe out through your mouth. You should hear something like a whistle or a "shh" sound on the exhale. This type of breathing is an easy way for your lungs to begin taking deeper inhales and exhales. It helps you relax and eases you out of shortness of breath.
Your yoga instructor will always remind you to breathe in with one movement and out with another, helping your body relax into poses and actively release tension and stress with others. To better appreciate these breaths, you want to inhale through your nose, nice and big, and then exhale through your nose. On your exhale, imagine you are fogging up a mirror with your breath. Use that same push from your core while breathing out through your nose, activating all of your breathing muscles and better extricating all of your air to allow for new, fresh air to come in and take its place.
You also can add in a couple mindful activities that can bring you back to your breath throughout a busy day.
Maybe you sit at your desk chair for one minute, close your eyes, and breathe. Maybe your get your yoga mat out and listen to an instructor guide you through a meditation practice. It can be as formal or informal as you feel comfortable with. The main point here is to take a moment to return to your breathing and allow the day's stressors to float by, rather than latch onto the inside of your brain and drive you crazy. You can feel more calm and focused after meditation, which will allow you to move forward out of peace rather than stress.
Hunched or slouched posture squishes your lungs, restricting you from taking in or letting out enough air. Teach your body how to sit and stand up straight in order to give your lungs an effective breath. Just keeping your shoulders up and back will help you inhale more efficiently.
You can restore the space for deep breaths by expanding your ribcage, loosening up tight areas in the body, and twisting your core to wring your body out like a rag and allow for fresh air to enter in. You don't realize how high your shoulders have raised and tight your chest is until you spend time loosening up. All of a sudden, you will find that elusive deep breath and be able to relax your shoulders, jaw, and neck.