Is the way you breathe taking away from your workouts? If you breathe from your chest (known as ‘shallow breathing’) you’re causing your neck, back and shoulder muscles to tighten and increasing your resting heart rate. This can affect how much oxygen you have for exercise and other physical activity.
Instead, we want to breathe from our diaphragm, referred to as “deep or diaphragmatic breathing.” The diaphragm, located below the lungs, is the major muscle of respiration. Using your diaphragm correctly slows your rate of breathing, so you reduce oxygen demand and require less effort and energy to breathe. Deep breathing improves core muscle stability and improves your body’s ability to tolerate intense exercise.
Here is a quick technique you can practice to ensure that you are breathing from your diaphragm.:
- Sit in a chair or lay on the floor with your knees bent.
- Close your eyes and relax the shoulders so that they pull away from your ears.
- Place your dominant hand below your navel and place your other hand above the navel.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and think about filling up with air right below your dominant hand. Let your dominant hand rise with the inhalation.
- Then focus on filling air under the other hand. Let your other hand rise.
- For the last step of the inhale, let your ribs expand.
- Exhale slowly while tightening your abdominal muscles, letting them fall inward as the air leaves your lungs.
- Repeat for 5-10 minutes, practicing at least once a day.
It may take a little practice to get used to inhaling below your navel but the benefits are well worth it. In fact, you can use this breathing method to help you relax, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and reduce the effects of stress. Try it now!
by HealthEase fitness professional Jessika Miller