The Top 4 Reasons to Master Your Breathing
February 11, 2015
It is Wednesday February 11th. We are 11 days into February, and 42 days into 2015. I am proud to be connecting with people all over the country with the TEAM Fitness Heart to Heart challenge. I get pictures and texts of sweaty, smiling people daily. I LOVE IT!
While I am a BIG supporter of getting people moving in all sorts of ways, I want to take a moment to remind everyone (myself included) of the simplest “workout” of all: mastering your breathing!
“WHAT?!” you might ask…How can breathing be a workout? While it might not bring sweat to your brow, breathing correctly holds many benefits that are right up there with a long walk, or a couple of push ups! Jane Boston, the co-editor of a new book, Breath in Action, says that paying attention to your breathing can be the best preventative treatment for numerous health issues – notably asthma and high blood pressure, but even aches and pains picked up from bad upper body posture – as well as leading to a better awareness of your sense of self. I agree!!! Here are the top 4 ways using your breath will have a positive effect on your body.
Benefit #1 Decreased Stress Levels: There are some days that I pause and realize both my body and my mind are going warp speed. I am thinking about something months away, I am heading to my next appointment, and I am just going, going, going. I then take a big, deep breath and everything slows down. Whether it is being nervous for something at work, a stressful home situation, or just the demand of your own life, when you pause to breath and slow down the stress truly does become less. I believe this happens because the breath brings us into the moment. In the moment we are able to realize that our worry is typically about past or future events, and we really can’t control them. What we CAN control is our mind and our outlook be slowing down our breath and being calm.
Benefit #2 Breath Attention for Weight Loss: Research has shown that increased cortisol levels make weight loss very difficult. It puts our body in a state of fight or flight and our body is not able to lose weight. If you are able to decrease your cortisol levels through the stress reduction of the power of your breath, then this could possibly lead to weight loss! Also, when you breathe correctly you being to gain strength in your lower abdominals. This might even lead to an inch off the waist line!
Benefit #3 Increased Happiness and Self Confidence: Recent research on brain chemistry has shown that our minds after meditation look very similar to our minds after recreational drug use! The point of this article is not my position on recreation drug use, but simply to remind people that our breathing has the power to mellow us out, and increase our happiness levels. Breathing also allows us to connect with who we truly are from the inside out. While sometimes our inner self might waiver, breathing is very grounding and feeling grounded in who you are and what you do does wonders for our personal self- confidence. I challenge you to sit still, or lay down for 4 minutes. Bring your attention to your breath, and be patient if your mind wanders to other things or places. As best you can bring yourself back to where you are, and slowly inhale, and slowly exhale. Play a song in the background if you would like. At the end of these 4 minutes your brain has slowed along with your breath and hopefully you feel more at peace and more at ease.
Benefit #4 Increased Athletic Performance: All woo woo aside, if you are able to harness the power of your breath and remain calm in stressful situations such as a tennis match, a steep hill looming ahead, or a match deciding final point, you WILL be a more successful athlete. Learn to blend the power of your body with your mind and your breath and you will be unstoppable!
Make sure you are breathing CORRECTLY! Did you know that many people don’t breath correctly? A correct breath has the abdomen increasing in size or outward with an inhale, and then dropping back down with the exhale. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. To practice this stand tall with both feet at hip distance, and a soft knee bend. Place both hands on your stomach. As you inhale try and make your stomach expand. As you exhale think of pulling the abdominal muscles gently in towards your spine. Try to remain as still as possible through the shoulders and neck.