Crystal Grenier

Just Breathe …

“Just Breath. No matter what happens, we can handle it, and we will be okay.” Lori Deschene

Inhale 1 2 3 4 … Exhale 1 2 3 4. We must take deep breathes every so often in order to keep our sanity as we endure the social impact of the Coronavirus. As I write this, and hopefully when you read it, the ramifications of this health issue will have somewhat subsided and will soon find its way out of our daily communication and well-being. 

With the desire and need not to weaken the immune system, deep breathing not only calms our nerves, it brings our bodies the maximum amount of oxygen needed to stay healthy. And when exercising, practicing yoga, or doing some other activity, learning how to properly breathe can positively impact your workout and your life.

A tidbit of information. Most of us take short shallow breaths, like 12-16 per minute. Ideally it should be 8-10. Particular activities will require certain consistent breathing patterns. The key is to be and stay mindful of your breathing during your exercise and throughout your day. It can be hard at first but with practice like anything, it will become more natural and fluid.

When we exercise, our cells crave oxygen to increase the rate and depth of respiration thus providing the lungs with 10 or more times the oxygen offered during rest. We have trained ourselves to breathe through our chest which restricts air movement in the abs. And this causes a reverse breathing mechanism.

Chest Breathing. Instead of your belly expanding on your inhalation and relaxing back on your exhalation, there is no movement in your belly at all. All the movement during respiration is in your chest alone.  
Reverse Breathing. Instead of your belly expanding on your inhalation, it actually sucks in during the inhalation and your chest expands dramatically. And on your exhalation, your belly rises as your chest relaxes.

Are you holding your breath? When lifting weights or moving through yoga poses, holding your breath naturally braces the spine to protect, however, the side effects of doing so are far worse. This constriction of breath increases intra-abdominal pressure and does not allow air to escape from the lungs which in turn can increase blood pressure, bring on dizziness symptoms, fainting, decreased blood flow to the heart, and even stroke. 

If you effectively brace your ab muscles (the core as it is repeatedly referenced), at the start of the exercise, you will be providing the back brace needed for protection which will allow normal breathing to occur. This process does take time to master, however, counting your repetitions aloud through the movement will be a sign of not holding your breath. When I personal train or instruct resistance training classes, I always emphasize “exhaling on your exertion”. Generally, as you lift the weight or perform the exercise, breathe out, and when you bring the weight back towards the body, breathe in.

Nose breathing versus mouth breathing: Physical practice of proper breathing technique not only enhances your workout, but also introduces many benefits to your body and mind. Benefits gained through optimizing oxygenation to internal organs and muscle can include: lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, balance our nervous systems, increase mental focus and brain health, improve athletic performance, reduce injury risk, quicker recovery, improve posture, better sleep, and strengthen core muscles.

Breathing can help you lose weight … wait, what? If the body is stressed out, it goes into survival mode, slowing your metabolism, storing fat due to more cortisol production thus preventing you from cardiovascular improvements. If we are breathing correctly, we are chill and our bodies function much better towards healthy goals.

How do we heal through breath? Those suffering from chronic pain choose shallow short breathing to protect, and this releases stress hormones. When practiced, breath awareness can bring a healthy respiratory system by enhancing the strength and flexibility of the chest muscles and fascia plus positively align the ribs and spine. Many great things can happen by actively engaging the diaphragm with practices that stretch the length of the inhalation and exhalation pausing. 

And my favorite. In yoga, Pranayama is the direct practice of breath control. As a vital life force; yoga exercises and poses, certain breathing techniques, and sequences are practiced to help clear physical and emotional blocks or obstacles in the body so that the breath, and Prana, can flow freely. Yoga breath can really help those suffering from chronic pain brought on by disease, stress, etc. Learning how to breathe properly during exercise activity, your yoga practice, and most importantly, in our time of virus despair, will certainly bring some relief physically, mentally and emotionally. 

We should not take breathing for granted. We need to make conscious efforts to do it right. Namaste’

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