Breathing seems like the most natural thing in the world, but the technique of inhaling and exhaling affects your elevators. Learn how to control your breathing with these 4 practices.
There is nothing more natural and simpler than the act of breathing: air enters and then leaves the lungs. The body’s automatic action keeps us alive and active. Although the breathing act is automatic in most cases, we can control inhalation and exhalation and can decide when to engage this conscious control. How we control our breathing during exercise influences the results of our efforts in the gym.
Control is carried out mainly by the diaphragm, the muscle that controls the respiratory act. The diaphragm is a domed muscle located across the base of the chest cavity. When contracted, the diaphragm flattens. This increases the vertical size (and capacity) of the chest, drawing air into it. When the diaphragm relaxes, the volume of the chest cavity decreases and air is pushed out.
But breathing changes in response to different situations, and more often than not, these changes are not accidental. Ask yourself three questions:
- What do you do when your breathing gets out of hand during an intense tempo workout? You breathe faster and deeper, breathing in more air to lower your heart rate.
- How do you usually breathe when trying to complete the last rep of your heaviest set? Chances are, you hold your breath to increase core tension during the lift.
- If you were in the boxing ring and realized that you were about to get punched in the stomach, what would you do? You would be grouped before this blow by holding your breath and contracting your abdominal muscles.
The bottom line is that your body naturally understands the role of breathing during physical activity and stress and changes it accordingly. By learning to harness the natural power of breathing, we can improve our lifts, stabilize the spine, and accelerate recovery through simple breathing activity.
Below are 4 breathing practices that will help you work on improving your breathing control, as well as your ability to organize your thoughts, control your posture and get rid of daily stress.
1. Anytime: yogic breathing
The type of breathing, referred to in Sanskrit by the beautiful word Ujjayi (ocean breathing), is a form of active breathing that is best practiced in a comfortable sitting position. It is very common in yoga classes, but it is also worth practicing at home, after work, and outside the gym.
Before we can learn to control our breathing, we must feel it, and this is what the Ujjaya breathing technique teaches us. It gives a vision of how breathing works, how you can develop the ability to slow it down or speed it up. Once you master this breathing method, it will be easier for you to use your breath as a tool for your training.
How to do:
- Sit down and straighten your back. Straighten your chest and relax your shoulders.
- Close your eyes and start breathing in and out through your nose. Slow down your breathing for a count of four as you inhale and exhale.
- After you develop this rhythm, begin to constrict the glottis as you breathe. This will result in an ocean-like sound that accompanies this breathing practice.
- Continue for 5 minutes trying to maintain concentration and breath control.
2. Before training: breathing through one nostril
Breathing practice teaches you to focus your attention on each breath. This is an ideal pre-workout practice to help unite body and mind before doing strength exercises.
How to do:
- Get into a comfortable sitting position with your shoulders relaxed and your chest extended.
- Close your eyes and start breathing in and out slowly through your nose. Do ten inhalation-exhalation cycles before moving on to the next step.
- Close the right nostril with the thumb of your right hand. Inhale slowly through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with your right index finger and exhale through the right nostril.
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left. Then close the left one and exhale through the right. Continue in this manner for 10 breaths.
3. In training: holding your breath
This exercise directly affects the strength and success of your elevators. Understanding how to tense and pull your core muscles towards the center to stabilize the spine and stay in the rhythm of breathing paves the way for more effective and safer training.
How to do:
- Starting position – standing, shoulders relaxed, feet hip-width apart.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose and hold your breath, pulling your ribs in and down, as if preparing for a punch to the stomach.
- Hold this position for a slow count of five, then exhale through your mouth, easing the tension in your core muscles by only 50 percent.
- Inhale slowly through your nose; hold full tension, slowly counting to five, and then exhale through your mouth.
- After four breaths, rest for 30 seconds.
- Practice this breathing pattern for three rounds and then use it during strength training. How? To begin with, tune in to the approach, take a deep breath through your nose, draw in your abdomen and chest, do the repetition, and then exhale.
4. Post-workout: restorative breathing
The last exercise seems easy to do, but there are invisible complications. Ideal moments to practice are during stretching, after training, or at home. This exercise can be difficult because your mind will switch and your breathing will change while you need to stay relaxed but collected and consistent.
How to do:
- Breathe slowly and deliberately through your nose for at least 5 minutes. During the exercise, it is not necessary to take a sitting posture, as for meditation, but if this is the only way for you to concentrate, then go ahead. If not, do the exercise while you cool down, stretch, or on your way home from the gym.