After briefly explaining the importance of breathing in physical exercise - and in life in general - today we'll show you some exercises you can do to boost your routines and your well-being.
The subjects of breathing, mindfulness and meditation are very much in vogue these days. This is because individual and collective wellbeing has become even more important due to the great impact of the pandemic on the lives of the world's population. Therefore, it is normal that you have already come across some breathing exercises. Some people include them in their daily routine; others only resort to them in more extreme cases. However, several studies confirm their effectiveness when used frequently.
There are several types of breathing and, as such, there are also several exercises you can do. Some of them are complex, others simple. Some aim to stimulate and others to relax. They are basically a form of meditation and self-knowledge of the body.
In our first post about breathing we told you about diaphragmatic breathing. Today we will add rhythmic breathing and long exhale breathing. These two types of breathing will allow you to add exercises that help to reduce anxiety, to sleep better and to increase your performance.
All exercises start more or less in the same way. Some start with the simple act of breathing consciously, freeing your mind from the distractions of the outside world, focusing exclusively on your breathing. Others require specific movements. However, usually the beginning is very similar. Close your eyes. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. If you prefer to sit, you can roll your shoulders back and forth. You may notice the sounds around you as you rock your torso forward, backward, to one side and then the other.
From there, you begin to be aware of the weight of your hands, your legs and your head on your neck, noticing how your body moves each time you breathe. At this point, breathing techniques come into play which will help you reach the state you want, be it relaxation, stimulation, calmness or concentration.
1. Exercise to give you energy
You are about to start training, but you need a boost of energy. True, you can get it by taking a supplement, but did you know that you can also do it with a simple breathing exercise?
By increasing your breathing rate you can send a signal of encouragement to your brain, without putting it under stress. This will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for electrical impulses. In other words, it will activate an arousal system which will adjust the body to support physical activity. In practice, it means that the blood is purified and carbon dioxide levels will decrease.
To do this exercise, you should breathe exclusively through your nose. The inhale should be passive, as if you were doing it without thinking about it. The exhale, in turn, should be explosive, almost abrupt, as you push your navel towards your spine. Repeat for a few minutes and finish with some deep diaphragmatic breaths. You'll see that in the end, you'll feel more powerful for your training.
2. Exercise to help you concentrate
Sometimes we need help to get in the "zone", to focus, whether it's to do sport or any other activity that requires attention. This exercise will help you with that, as it helps balance your brain and keep you focused.
The name of this exercise is alternate nostril breathing. As the name suggests, it consists of breathing in from one nostril and out from another, then switching sides. At first it may feel awkward doing this exercise, but the recommended way is to find the way that works best for you, either using both hands or just one hand.
3. Relaxation exercise
Breathing exercises for relaxation should be the most common. Not least because we often associate breathing with yoga and meditation, and quite correctly so. So it is without much surprise that we bring you an exercise for relaxation, and this is also a great option to cool down after a workout.
This exercise has two variations: one more complex and one simpler. Let's start with the complex one. If you can, roll your tongue around. Breathe in through your mouth, as if your tongue were a reed through which air passes, while mentally counting to 5. Then, using your diaphragm and with your shoulders relaxed, close your mouth and breathe out slowly through your nose.
If this seemed too complicated, you can simply inhale through your teeth and exhale through your nose, at least 5 times in a row. Did it work?
4. Exercise to help you sleep
This technique is known as Bhramari or bee breathing. You'll understand why in a moment. However, before that, it is important to mention that this exercise has several benefits such as reducing stress, anxiety and insomnia, improving memory and concentration and soothing your throat pre-workout on the outside.
Back to the point, in this technique you should breathe exclusively through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. When inhaling, you should do it silently, while when exhaling you should make the noise of a bee - hence the name -. As with all the exercises so far, you should repeat it for a few minutes.
5. Exercise to maximize your performance
To finish this list of exercises, we have decided to bring you a suggestion to apply in your training, especially if you practice running. More than an exercise in itself, rhythmic breathing is a type of breathing that boosts performance.
During a run, every time a foot hits the ground the force caused by the impact sends a signal to the brain telling it that the body is in a state of stress. By doing rhythmic breathing, you can receive more oxygen and decrease the body's stress level, as you put less pressure on the diaphragm, while balancing the impact of the stride through your breathing.
Basically, this breathing is about creating a pattern, as the name suggests. If you can, start by doing a 3 by 2 pattern. You breathe in for three strides and out for two. Ideally, start both inhaling and exhaling when your foot is touching the ground. If your running pace is faster, opt for a 2:1. This exercise can be quite complex, so start slowly. The same goes for all the exercises we've mentioned so far. If you happen to feel dizzy, stop and try again later. A key aspect of conscious breathing is to know your body and allow it space to learn and adapt.
These were just a few breathing exercises. There are many options, whether they are autonomous or guided by an external person who guides your thinking. Let us know which exercise you liked best and which one we should add to this list.
Good workouts and good breathing!