With a rise in popularity with yoga and meditative exercise, breathing correctly has become one of the main focal points to a complete fitness regimen. Breathing properly can make all the difference in your performance and overall fitness results. The practice of breathing correctly starts by taking a deep breath slowly from the mouth and nose to the pelvis and all the way back up. The order of this technique can actually vary depending on the activity. Breathing is so important in fact, that incorrect patterns during an intense weight training workout can possibly lead to a person passing out and getting injured. I have personally seen this happen many times in the gym when someone is doing squats and they hold their breath too long. They end up getting light-headed to the point of collapsing! This is very dangerous, especially when you have hundreds of pounds on your back.
Nose breathing will help with an increase in oxygen uptake as it is a very efficient way to take oxygen into the lungs. For some people, breathing through the nose is impossible due to blockages in the nasal pathway. However, for those with clear nasal passages, you should practice using breathing techniques with just your nose whenever possible, especially during cardio exercise. You will learn to breathe in a correct pattern and do it automatically once you are fully aware and conscious of your breathing patterns during multiple workouts. Try to work on breath control and timing in order to get to a point where you feel relaxed and calm even while under the stress of exercise.
Slowly breathing in and out is the best technique for most exercises in order to keep your heart rate as calm as possible but some like to practice other forms of breathing patterns during exercise. A technique called the “Valsalva Manoeuvre” consists of holding your breath during an exercise. I do not advocate holding your breath during any phase of an exercise or while weight lifting since it is far more dangerous than helpful. When dealing with water sports and training at higher elevations, there are patterns of breath holding techniques which have applications under the right supervision.
There is a new wave of breathing techniques being used in sports such as MMA (mixed martial arts) where athletes use a snorkel while their nose is clipped shut. This teaches the body to work more efficiently while they train. Come fight day, they will hopefully be less winded and have more stamina to get through the long and grueling rounds. Many athletes train at higher elevations for this same purpose but the snorkel seems to be an even more extreme way to train for similar effects.
Pilates and Tai Chi practice breathing techniques with controlled movements causing breath patterns similar to yoga and meditation. Similar to weight lifting, although without the resistance, these breathing exercises are a wonderful option for those who are interested in practicing them. This style is beneficial because there are no weights involved and the techniques can be performed without the need of any particular equipment.
I myself had to learn to incorporate some breathing and meditative work within my own fitness regimen. It is something necessary to all of us within the fitness culture and especially with how fast paced our lives can be. People wear multiple hats and have many more demands since the days when these breathing practices were invented yet they are important today for our “new age” populations.
I recommend working at taking slow and controlled breaths for as little as 5 minutes per day while you perform some stretching exercises. Hamstring and chest stretches are something everyone can perform daily because the numbers of us with issues related to these areas are very high. To maximize your time, work in rhythm with your breathing along with different stretches. This will also really help you de-stress so you can get through the hectic pace of your everyday life!