Today marks the first day of Breathe Easy week 2019, and this week we are going to focus on mindfulness breathing techniques that help you overcome stress, boost energy levels, and optimise your physical health.
Incorrect respiratory techniques prevent many from taking enough oxygen into the body. When this happens the body is subject to illness, or premature ageing. It also makes exercising harder to contend with.
It also helps sharpen your mind, improving reaction time, decrease mind wandering and decreases emotional reactivity. Focused breathing can not only help you cope in stressful situations, it can also help you improve and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Walking up stairs or gentle exercise leaving you out of breath?
A recent study of 2,000 adults, found 44% of respondents believed their current level of fitness has a negative impact on their lives. With many complaining of shortness of breath being the reason behind their lack of physical activity.
If you suffer from shortness of breath, on what seems like the most simplest of tasks, then the first thing you would want to do is practice guided breathing.
Pursed-lip breathing and deep breathing, are two exercises which can help to relieve shortness of breath.
How to do pursed-lips breathing:
- Find a comfortable spot to sit and relax your shoulders
- Breathe in through your nose with your mouth closed
- Purse your lips as if about to blow out a candle
- Breathe out very slowly through pursed lips until your lungs have emptied
- Make the out breath longer than the in breath. It should be about twice as long. Counting your breath can help, so try 2 counts as you inhale and then 4 as you exhale.
This technique should be practised for 5 – 10 mins each day.
How to do diaphragm/deep breathing:
Start seated or lying down. Relax your shoulders
Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your upper chest
Focus your breathing on your belly
Breathe in and the hand on your belly should rise
Breath out and the hand on your belly should lower
Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out slowly. As with pursed-lips breathing, your exhalation should be longer than your inhalation.
Challenge yourself once you’ve mastered this technique by trying it during an activity.
Practise this for about 5 to 10 minutes 2 times a day.
Using mindful breathing before, after and during exercise can help you increase the amount of exercise you can handle.
It is important to seek further medical advice if you feel your shortness of breath lasts longer than a month, gets worse when you lie down, or brings on uncontrolled coughing.
Struggling to connect your breathing pattern with exercise or motion?
You wouldn’t be the first.
When you exercise, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. Naturally your body copes with this by increasing your breathing rate by 60 times per minute (At rest, we breathe around 15 times per minute).
Controlling this, is key to your stamina!
Practised, controlled breathing can improve lung function by up to 15% which in turn improves endurance and reduces breathlessness.
Many people struggle to synchronize breathing with motion. Some people naturally hold their breath, resulting in a build up your CO2 in your body which will cause you to fatigue faster. Others simply can not naturally inhale or exhale it time with motion.
It can also go unnoticed, so next time you’re exercising, be mindful and take note of your breathing.
The simple rule to maintain good breathing rhythm while exercising is – Exhale on exertion.
The Pilates breathing technique
Pilates is a good way to start you on your road to maintaining fitness while practicing guided breathing, as it does not require you to inhale or exhale in a certain way or at specific times.
Each breathing technique accompanies a movement which is very specific. Concentrating our breathing in the diaphragm and oblique muscles, we encourage you to match the intensity and pattern of your breath to the exercise you are performing.
A general rule for the majority of Pilates exercises –
INHALE – to allow your diaphragm to drop and lungs to expand
EXHALE to reverse the process and generate natural stability around your spine
Avoid shallow breathing, as this creates tension and restricts movement. A restricted throat creates tension in the body, which can limit movement. So, practise breathing out with an open mouth and relaxed throat. Sighing the air out can help.
A healthy breath takes place in three dimensions: it involves expansion of the body forward and back, sideways, as well as upwards and downwards.
Practising posterior-lateral breathing is so important as it teaches us how to breathe in an optimal way where the rib cage moves all three planes and the abdomen expands a little.
Our step by step guide to lateral breathing
- Sit comfortably and place your hands on the sides of your body around the rib cage.
- Naturally, drop your shoulders.
- To start, breathe easy though your nose, take note of your breathing, connecting your thoughts to your movements.
- With your stomach relaxed, feel its movement as the air fills your body.
- When you are ready, take a deep breath through your nose. You should feel your inhale, filling your sides and back of your body.
- Exhale through your mouth. Feel your ribs move closer together as your hands now come together.
- Repeat this breathing pattern several times.
Remember to keep your ribs engaged and moving freely during your breath. It is a common mistake to allow your stomach to take over the breathing or your ribs to brace and stay still or suddenly move.
Don’t worry if your mind takes you off track., it is perfectly natural. You can re-centre and realign at any point during your breathing exercise.
Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.
This site offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.