Just Breathe…

June 17, 2009

Yesterday, as I was literally running in late to a yoga class, I noticed that I was “out of breath.”  In this moment, I became fully aware that I had not been conscious of my breathing for, well, really…the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been feeling as though I have been trying to breathe underwater, which I am sure you can imagine is not pleasant.  Ironically, or coincidentally, or cosmically, I was going to this yoga in order to slow down and breathe.  In reflection, I don’t think I would have noticed my breath as much if I had not run, and really felt the quickness of my heart beat and the fullness of my lungs working for me.  Sometimes, in life, you have to push hard, run quickly, and breakdown in order to relax, be still, and breakthrough.  In order to come back to the simplicity and complexity of your breath.

Why does breathing really matter? Not only can proper breathing aide in relaxation during mind/body work, correct breathing also makes your cardio training more efficient, helps with power and stability during strength training, and aides relaxation during stretching.  It also helps burn fat, prevent side stitches, and provides oxygen so your brain can think!

That’s right, ya’ll, breathing is KEY!

Here are some ideas, thoughts, and tips on breathing:

Breathing during exercise

  • Generally speaking, the most important thing is that you breathe, period.  You also want to focus on pushing air out of your body (as opposed to sucking it in)
  • For cardio:  Avoid shallow breathing.  Find a regular pattern or rhythm with your breathing.  For example, when I run, I inhale for 3 counts and exhale for 2.  Your rhythm may be different than mine, so see what works best for you.  Keep in mind that you want to breathe out a bit more than you breathe in.
  • For strength training:  Exhale on the hardest part when you are exerting, and then inhale on the easier part when you are recovering.  For example, when doing a crunch, you should exhale when you lift your shoulders off the ground, and inhale when you lower your shoulders to the ground.
  • In general, try to breathe through your nose; however, if you are doing a rigorous workout, it’s alright to breathe through the mouth, too.  Remember, bottom line is you want to be breathing!

Breathing for simple sake of breathing:

“Our breathing can help us in capturing our moments.  Breathing is always here, right under our noses.  We have the phrase, ‘I didn’t have a moment to catch my breath’ to give us a hint that moments and breathing might be connected in an interesting way.”

To use your breathing, just tune in to the feeling of it…the feeling of the breath coming into your body and the feeling of the breath leaving your body.  That’s all.  Just feeling the breath.  Breathing and knowing you are breathing.  This doesn’t mean deep breathing or forcing your breathing, or trying to feel something special, or wondering whether or not you are doing it right.  It doesn’t mean thinking about your breathing, either.  It’s just the bare bones awareness of the breath moving in and the breath moving out.

It doesn’t have to be for a long time at any one stretch.  Using the breath to bring us back to the present moment takes no time at all, only a shift of attention.  But great adventures await you if you give yourself a little time to string moments of awareness together, breath by breath, moment to moment.”*

In exercise and in daily life, may you find focus on your breathing and on being present in this moment until the next arrives.

In peace,

Heather

* Excerpt from Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

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