12 June, 2008


Yoga & Pilates focus a lot on breathing. In Pilates, I have this famous cue for my clients- 'while exhaling, pull your navel in to spine’. In general never ever hold your breath, no matter how hard the exercise is.
I've broken breathing techniques into five parts; inhaling through the nose, inhaling while expanding the stomach, exhaling through "pursed" lips, attempting to breath as slow as possible and consciously trying to empty as much air as possible out of the lungs with every exhalation.
Inhaling through the nose is important to warm and filter the air before it gets to the lungs. It will also help to keep your sinuses clear.
"Pursed" or "puckered" lip exhaling naturally slows down exhalation but it’s also helpful to learn to inhale as slow as is comfortable to you. This helps make your respiration system more efficient.

Inhaling by expanding the stomach is not easy. All our lives, we have been inhaling by expanding our chest. I'd suggest learning how to inhale by expanding the stomach by lying on your back and putting a small book on your stomach. Now try to raise the book as you inhale. When you can easily raise the book by inhaling while lying on your back, teach yourself how to extend your stomach while standing up straight by putting your hand on your stomach. When you can easily move your hand forward when standing still when you inhale, it will not be too hard to learn to breathe from the stomach while you are exercising. Lots of practice will make this important technique automatic.
The last breathing technique that I feel is important when exercising is to consciously try to empty your stomach of all air with exhalation. This is difficult. However, it is very beneficial because those of us with emphysema suffer from too much trapped air. Therefore, if we can empty our lungs to the maximum amount that we are capable of, it will increase our ability to get oxygen to our muscles and remove carbon dioxide from our blood.
As a thumb rule I always tell my clients- exhale on exertion or exhale when going against gravity. E.g. in bicep curl, when you curl the bicep up, you go against the gravity, hence you exhale & when curling down towards floor, you inhale.
Also remember, these rules reverse in aqua aerobics because here the buoyancy of water takes over.

Pursed-lip breathing
Before starting your daily exercise routine, you should always ‘warm up’ your lungs. A technique called pursed-lip breathing can improve your lung function before you start exercising. It only takes ten minutes—and you’ll most likely feel the difference when you’re active. Here’s what you do.
O Inhale through your nose so your stomach muscles move outward and your diaphragm pulls air into your lungs.
O Exhale through your mouth with your lips pursed, making a hissing noise.
O Exhale twice as long as you inhale—this is very important, as it forces all the air out of your lungs.
Once you’ve mastered pursed-lip breathing, you should do it before and during exercise.

A few nice deep breaths can be so relaxing. It can be a quick and easy stress reliever. You can do this anytime. You can do this anywhere. It is not visible to others.

And the good news can be that because you are less stressed, you will handle things more easily.

Word has it that when people are stressed, they tend to take short little breaths rather than deep, relaxing ones. Is this true for you? Check it out.

Quick and Easy Stress Management Breathing Exercise:
• Sit down or lie down.
• Inhale slowly and say to yourself I am...
• Exhale slowly and say to yourself relaxed.

Breathing is not something you DO. Rather it is something which you ALLOW. The problem is that we don't allow our breathing to occur smoothly and naturally.

For those who are a bit more ambitious, here is a way to experience more about breathing.

Experiencing a Full Breath While it is not possible or necessary to fully expand the lungs with every breath, it is vital in heightening awareness to experience how a really complete breath feels. Used periodically, this exercise utilizes the lungs to capacity, and extracts great amounts of "life force" from the air.

Directions: Try this exercise sitting, standing and lying down.

1. Exhale deeply, contracting the belly.
2. Inhale slowly as you expand the abdomen.
3. Continue inhaling as you expand the chest.
4. Continue inhaling as you raise the shoulders up towards your ears.
5. Hold for a few comfortable seconds
6. Exhale in reverse pattern, slowly. Release shoulders, relax chest, contract the belly.
7. Repeat.
This exercise will require gentle practice in order that inhalation and exhalation be smooth and balanced. Beginners should only do it 2 or 3 times continuously.

This article written by Kiran Sawhney is also published on the following web site:


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