The Importance of a Breathing Practice describes the benefits of deep, nasal, diaphragmatic breathing and the techniques that help develop a breathing practice.
Apply your breathing practice to these 5 activities and you will improve performance, relieve tension, increase relaxation and maximize outcome.
- Daily Activities – Do not hold your breath with movement; it will increase tension and the likelihood of injury. It is common to try to protect our body in this way, however it may be the cause of residual misalignment leading to a downward spiral of tension and discomfort. Be aware of your breath. This will help you to see how you may be protecting your body due to tightness or pain. When moving with your breath, the general rule of thumb is to exhale anytime you bend forward and compress your diaphragm. Always inhale when straightening your body, as when you stand up or stretch. When you coordinate breath in this way, it will help to release tension.
- Relieving Tension – We all have a vulnerable part of our body, the place where we hold tension. For many it is the neck and shoulders, for others it is the lower back. Take two deep, cleansing breaths, forcing the air out of the lungs. Scan your body; what part would you like to stretch right now? That will be the place where you are holding the most tension. Begin your breathing practice by breathing through the nose, feeling the diaphragm expand. With your next inhale imagine your breath going to this area of tension, relaxing the muscle. With each exhale feel the tension leaving your body. Repeat this exercise several times until you feel the muscles becoming more relaxed.
- Exercise – Coordinating your breath with exercise will improve endurance and increase flexibility, reducing the risk of injury. A practice of nasal and diaphragmatic breathing teaches you to listen to your body so you can recognize when it is under stress. Relaxation during exercise delivers more oxygen to the muscles and conserves energy and hydration, which all lead to improved performance. After exercising, remember to breathe into the muscle you are stretching, which aids in recovery to that muscle.
- Sex – Deep breathing during physical intimacy can heighten energy, sensation and connection with your partner. During sex, senses like touch and smell become more acute and breathing becomes accelerated. Practice slowing the breath and coordinate breathing with your partner. Like the rise and fall of your breath, your movements become as one, creating a deeper, longer-lasting experience.
- Sleep – Although, when sleeping we are in a resting pose, this is the most important phase of physical activity, recovery. Sleeping rejuvenates the body by restoring hormonal imbalances that may be stress-related and repairing the damage done at the cellular level. When you retire, lie on your back and locate any tension in your body. Apply breathing techniques for Relieving Tension, as outlined above and breathe into that tension, releasing it with each exhale. Now, focus on your breath, clearing your mind of the day’s events. Breathe deeply through your nose into your diaphragm, releasing each breath slowly and with control, keeping your inhales and exhales equal in length. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath until you feel yourself fully relaxed and ready for sleep.
Angela Ewari, owner of Running Yogini, is a certified running coach and yoga trainer in Denver, Colorado. Follow Angela on Twitter: http://twitter.com/running_yogini
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