5 Breathing Techniques To Improve Your Workout & Add A Little Rhythm To Your Exercise
Have you ever been in the middle of a set of squats or a circuit of burpees and suddenly realized you've been holding your breath the entire time? You're not alone, fam: Sometimes, when things get difficult during a sweat sesh, an automatic response is to hold your breath and brace yourself, which might not seem like that big of a deal in the moment, but it can actually be detrimental to achieving your goals in the gym. Believe it or not, there are specific breathing techniques you can use to improve your workout and enhance your fitness skills overall.
According to American Fitness Magazine, many people don't properly engage their diaphragm when they're breathing in general, let alone when they're exercising. In part, the outlet says, this shallow breathing can be due to things like stress and poor posture, and it can "cause discomfort in the chest and back muscles, weaken the muscles in the pelvic floor and lower back, and disrupt proper movement of the shoulders and spine" — all of which can potentially lead to injury while engaging in any kind of physical activity.
So now that you know just how much your breathing factors into your workout, here are a few techniques to help you improve your inhales and exhales at the gym, broken down by the type of workout you're doing.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Is Best Mid-Stretch
Yes, even when you're stretching before or after your workout, breathing properly is still important. According to Tatyana Souza, owner of Coolidge Yoga studios, a breathing technique that can be used to calm the nervous system, bring the body into balance, and help with flexibility and length is alternate nostril breathing (or nadi shodhana, in Sanskrit). "You can do this breathing technique while holding a stretch to keep the body calm and relaxed to get maximum stretch benefits," Souza tells Elite Daily.
To try this out at home, begin by picking your favorite stretch. While holding the stretch, bring your thumb to your right nostril and press down, closing the airway. Then, inhale through your left nostril. Before exhaling, close both nostrils for a moment, then open your right nostril to breathe out. Next, close your left nostril with your ring finger, and inhale though the right nostril. Close both nostrils for a moment, then release the left nostril and exhale out of the left. This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing.
Souza recommends doing about five to six rounds of alternate nostril breathing and taking notice of the state of calm that permeates your body as you hold your stretch.
Remember To Exhale On Exertion When You're Weightlifting
If you're really into lifting weights, try the "exhaling on exertion" technique to amplify your ability to pick things up and put them down. An example of this would be, during a pull-up, exhaling on the pulling-up motion, and inhaling as you're coming down — or exhaling while lifting a dumbbell, and inhaling as you slowly return to your starting posture.
In other words, you always want to make sure you're exhaling during the part of your weightlifting workout where you're exerting the most effort, which is when you're lifting the actual weight. In fact, a 2010 study published in the journal Ergonomics showed that this is likely the most natural, healthiest way to breathe when you're lifting something heavy.
Skull Shining Breath Is Great For Core Circuits And Endurance
A breathing technique that can help you build endurance in your workouts is called skull shining breath (or kapalabhati, in Sanskit). According to Souza, this way of breathing "builds up heat in the body and is quite invigorating." She adds, "It is also great for waking up the abdominals." Core circuit pregame, anyone?
To try it at home, start by taking a nice, big, clearing breath of fresh air. Then, to begin skull shining breath, exhale quickly out of your nose, pulling your navel in toward the spine as you do so. Continue exhaling and pulling the navel in at a rate of one exhale per second. The inhales will occur naturally in between the exhales.
"When starting out, try it for 40 exhales and slowly build up to 80 per round," Souza tells Elite Daily. "Three rounds should do the trick for getting the body warm and building some endurance."
Try Equal Breathing During Your Favorite Yoga Class
For my fellow yogis out there, equal breathing should be your go-to technique for reaping all of the blissful benefits of this mind-body practice. This one's all about having equal-length inhales and exhales, which will not only help you feel much more in control of your breath, but it can also help lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and balance your nervous system, according to Greatist.
Within your even breathing practice, you can also implement ocean breathing (or ujjayi pranayama, in Sanskrit), which will really help you get in touch with your body during your meditative time on the mat.
The 2:2 Method Will You Help You Survive Your Next Run
Getting into a consistent, belly-breathing rhythm during your run will help you fall into an easier, more natural stride, according to Austrian mobile fitness company Runtastic. Though this technique will feel a bit different for every runner, the 2:2 method of breathing is generally recommended for moderately paced runs, Runtastic says. Here's how you do it: Breathe in as you take two steps during your run (i.e. one with your right and one with your left), and breathe out as you take another two steps. The idea here is to basically sync your inhales and exhales with your footsteps in a sort of cycle, which will help keep things balanced throughout your body as you run. It sounds complicated in writing, but in practice, you'll find it feels pretty natural with your stride.
Once you get the hang of this technique, you'll be cruising along your favorite trail or running route with an ease you never knew you could have.