Friday, July 3, 2009

I breathe in. I breathe out.

When you lose your breath do you have a tough time getting it back under control? Do you feel like you struggle to take a full (also called deep) breath? When you breathe, which body part moves - just your chest or your entire abdomen and back?

Breathing does two things - provides fresh oxygen so your brain and muscles work properly; and disposes of the carbon dioxide waste (the equivalent to the exhaust from your cars engine). Breathe slowly and fully. With proper breathing, blood cells get the new, oxygen-rich air instead of slightly used, stale air. Experts estimate that proper breathing helps your body eliminate toxins 15 times faster than poor, shallow breathing. You'll be healthier and be able to perform better (mentally and physically) with less stress and will feel more relaxed!

To get the full benefits of good breathing, try the following:

Relax! Lie on your back or sit in an area that is dimly lit - bright lights can be very distracting. Close your eyes. Now, listen to your "regular" breathing for a moment. Don't think about changing it, just acknowledge the feeling. Relax your face, your neck, your cheeks, your jaw, your templates, even your tongue.

In and Out: Practice breathing correctly - in and out of your nose. Take long breaths in (counting to 8 often helps) - don't force it (you shouldn't be able to hear your breath coming in or out). Exhale slowly (count to 8 again). Now you are drawing slow breaths, not gulping in or blowing it out. feel the rhythm of your breathing.

Don't Breathe with Your Chest: Good breathing is done through your lower torso, rather than the upper torso. Each breath should expand your abdominals, your lower back and ribs. Relax your shoulders and try not to breathe with your chest. Put your hands on your stomach and feel the rise and fall. Don't feel it? Think about inhaling starting at your toes! Don't be afraid to "push" out your stomach - soon your stomach will move more freely.

Embrace the Feeling: Feel the good air entering your lungs and feel the stale air leaving your body. "In with the good, out with the bad" is definitely true. Make sure that you exhale as long as you inhale to make sure all the "bad" air is gone. Remember, long slow breaths. Most people take 12-16 breaths per minute. Ideally, it should be 8-10. Now try to make your exhale a little longer than your inhale for a while. Pause for 8 counts after you exhale without taking a breath. Don't worry - your body will force you to breathe as necessary! Think about expanding your lungs, making them as efficient and clear as possible!

[article by Master Trainer Val Strang, with excerpts from Mike Kramer - staff writer for]

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