Want to know how to improve your workouts? How about how to improve your health quickly? Until meditation and mindfulness swept across the health scene, breathing exercises were probably the last on anyone's mind when they considered "making healthy changes." We’re so glad this isn’t (extensively, at least) the case anymore. Most US adults have at least heard of meditation or even tried it. However, today we’re not going to talk about mediation per se, but how to use breathwork to pump oxygen into your blood, wake up, encourage the release of tension, and so much more!
Mindfulness is a vast concept that doesn’t consist of just sitting still! Your breath is your life force. We want to spill the beans on just how powerful it is in changing your vitality, thoughts, behaviors, and truly your life.
If you deal with chronic pain, we wrote this article for you! Try out our 5-minute body scan for pain management and let us know how it went!
This is How Your Breathing Style Affects Your Day-to-Day
There’s a really simple way to lift the mental fog, improve digestion, and regulate your emotions. Yup! You guessed it, you can do all the above by breathing… but hold up, there’s a little more to it than doing what you normally do. First, it helps to understand the main types of breathing.
Think of everyday breathing as the sort you do automatically and there isn’t much thought put into it. This is called eupnea breathing, and it’s usually done quietly.
When you force yourself to breathe deep into your belly and exhale with no force, this is called Diaphragmatic breathing. Being mindful of drawing in long breaths and pushing your lungs to expand has huge benefits:
- lower blood pressure
- release toxic gases from the lungs
- slow the heartbeat (calming you down)
- deep relaxation
- improved fitness ability
Costal breathing is shallow breathing or, in medical terms; breath brought in and out of your body by the movement of the ribcage rather than filling your lungs until your belly expands.
This type of breathing can help improve rib mobility but is not considered efficient breathing.
The last type of breathing we’ll mention is hyperpnea, or forced (active) breathing. In comparison to diaphragmatic breathwork, instead of passively expelling air, both your inhale and exhale are controlled “or actively pushed out and in” with hyperpnea breathing. This sort of breathing is commonly what most people do when active, like runners using their breath to pace themselves. What’s more, this type of breathing utilizes the throat muscles that allow your lung capacity to increase. Understanding exactly how hyperpnea breathing improves fitness for active people really ups your fitness game!
Life-Changing Breathing Exercises You Shouldn’t Skip
Box Breathing (The 4-Count Breath)
Are you searching for mental peace, or to do something like harmoniously integrating your mind with your natural body rhythm? Whelp, this breathing exercise does just that. To try it just count to four… four times. You’ll inhale nice and slow. Then on the exhale keep your breathing soft and languid so it lasts for the whole four seconds. Each breath makes up a side of an imaginary square.
Tension Release Breathing
This breathing hack becomes worth a million dollars whenever anxiety or anger feels overwhelming. However, it requires more than breathing, but we promise it’s worth the extra effort. Basically, while breathing in, you’ll clench up a specific area of your body. For example, inhale, tighten your fists, flex your forearms, and on the exhale, release all that tension. You can do it with your toes, jaw, glutes — really anywhere you feel tension. It may sound counterproductive, but when you breathe out and relax those clenched muscles, stress is zapped away mentally and physically.
Ocean Sounding Breath (Yoga Term: Ujayi Pranayama)
This loud breathing exercise energizes and warms the body. Begin with your mouth closed, inhaling through your nose slowly, for a count of six, keeping the throat constricted. This is done using shallow breathing (pulling your navel in and pushing your ribcage out instead of breathing into the lower belly.)
For the exhale, place your hands over your ears and exhale through your mouth while constricting your throat. Imagine the energy rushing up and outwards expanding through the chest and collarbones. The sound you hear on exhale should mimic that of ocean waves or a lion. Walla, you’ve just completed the breathwork known as ocean-sounding breath.
Lengthen Your Exhale
Need to slow down? Does breathing deeply seem to make you more anxious? We’ll put it this way: breathing deep (diaphragmatic breathing) is great. But, and there is a ‘but’. If you breathe rapidly without a considerable exhale, it’ll potentially trigger hyperventilation.
Do a Self-Assessment to Determine Your Breathing Patterns
The first step to reaping all of these benefits is to determine current breathing habits, and then retrain yourself to breathe more efficiently. When looking at “how you breathe” consider what causes your breathing to change. Anxiety or fear causes shallow (costal breathing) or neurotic breathing that could walk you straight into a panic attack (a combination of hyperpnea breathing and excess adrenaline.)
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you find yourself breathing mindlessly?
- Do you feel as if your breaths are shallow and quick often?
- Do you sporadically remind yourself to take deep breaths or to stop holding your breath?
- Do your lungs expand or belly when you breathe? (Scroll up to learn the difference and which one is more effective!)
- Do you implement proper breathwork when exercising or feel like you never have enough stamina?
If you stumbled over any of these questions, then there’s a lot you can do to improve your day-to-day with very little additional effort. All it will take is a little breathing, and you’re already doing that, aren’t you?