Wednesday ZenDay: Breathing Techniques

The December 2012 issue of Triathlete magazine had a Training Tip article that stated, “Constant exhalation is a necessary skill for an efficient freestyle stroke, but many athletes (especially newbies) have a tendency to hold their breath underwater.” Hmmm, I think I’m guilty of that too. So when my crossfit gym Beach Fitness posted a breathing workshop, I thought it might offer some insight last Saturday. The breathing workshop was taught by Laura Adams, a certified Pilates and yoga instructor. The hour-long class really helped us think about breathing beyond just our normal cardio workouts. I must admit much of it reinforced what I’ve learned in my meditation classes. But I was up for a refresher and a new perspective.

Laura gave us a great overview first of the basics of Diaphragmatic Breathing. (This video is a short and a little dry, but bear with me because it demonstrates the mechanics of what’s going in your body well). She had us practice deep belly breathing by putting one hand on our stomach and another on our chest. So often we actually don’t breathe from our belly, especially when we’re anxious and that’s why we can end up with that tight feeling in our chest when stressed. Hint: if you have a big presentation, race, heated conversation, test, etc., focus breathing from your belly to relax.

Lateral Rib Cage Breathing emphasizes breathing into the costal muscles between the ribs as the lower belly is gently contracted. She had us lay on our mats so we could feel our ribs expand. Here’s another video that demonstrates how to do it.

Pranayama breathing is utilized to alleviate pain and unbalance in the body. I was first introduced to it in my meditation classes. But Laura suggested this technique to use during stretching to help loosen up tight muscles or joints. Here’s another video that show you how to do it.

While much of our breathing happens autonomically without any thought, we can improve our performance, sleep and recovery by applying these techniques.