If you thought a simple breathe in, breathe out was all that was needed during a workout, think again. There’s a lot more to the art of inhaling and exhaling. Not only is it crucial for delivering oxygen to our bodies, it can also help you exercise for longer with less effort, keep irritating side-stitches at bay and even calm the mind.
Read on for a clear-cut guide to the best breathing techniques for you, courtesy of Greatist.com. Whether you’re a dedicated yogi, enjoy a HIIT class or two, regularly pound the pavements or partake in strength training, these will help you perform to the max during your workout.
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High-Intensity Sports or Classes
How to do it right: “Breathing muscles are an integral part of the core stabilising and postural control systems,” McConnell says. Intuitively, this means when anticipating a load or an impact, it’s best to take a deep breath and then brace the core.
Go big or go home: While there isn’t one correct way to breathe on the playing field or while pushing yourself in a HIIT class, the breath should come from the diaphragm (the most efficient breathing muscle), not the chest. “In general, the rib cage should expand in a 3D pattern, top to bottom, back to front, and to the sides,” says Anna Hartman, director of Performance Physical Therapy at Athletes’ Performance.
How to do it right: “While there’s no golden rule, many runners find it most comfortable to take one breath for every two foot strikes,” says Alison McConnell, a breathing expert and author of Breathe Strong Perform Better. This means taking two steps (one left, one right) while breathing in and two steps while breathing out—also known as the 2:2 Rhythm. “Because the diaphragm and surrounding organs are all subject to the forces of gravity,” McConnell says, “synchronising the breath to running cadence will keep the organs from putting unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm, which can impede breathing (and make running more uncomfortable than it needs to be).”
How to do it right: “Using the bench press as an example, exhale slowly and continuously while pressing the bar, then inhale at the top of the lift or on the return. Just remember that once that barbell is pressed, the weight doesn’t vanish,” McConnell explains.
When in doubt: Don’t forget to breathe out. Holding the breathe increases pressure inside the chest (which is good for stability), but holding it too long can impede the return of blood to the heart and raise blood pressure (definitely not the goal here).
How to do it right: “For sama vritti, or “equal breathing,” match an equal-length inhale to an equal-length exhale. This fundamental style of breath is said to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress,” says yoga instructor and Greatist Expert Rebecca Pacheco. “To power through more rigorous types of yoga, such as ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga, many yogis rely on ujjayi breath, (a.k.a. “victorious breath”). Simply breathe in and out through the nose, maintaining a slight contraction in the back of the throat. If you sound a bit like Darth Vader, you’re doing it right,” Pacheco insists.
What not to do: “When it’s time for warrior poses, wheelbarrows, and other hard poses, it’s common to hold your breath. Take that as a sign of overexertion,” Pacheco says. “Instead, take a break to refocus, breathe, and then hop back into the pose whenever you’re ready.”