Do you take your breath for granted?
The human anatomy and its ability to sustain life is, indeed, a miracle. Yet, we can get by for the most part without giving much thought to our respiratory system’s purpose and function — we fall asleep breathing and we wake up breathing (and I’m pretty sure that same breathing thing happens during rest.)
As a Pilates coach, I’ve come to appreciate the power of breath; it’s the backbone and rhythm of the method. For example, did you know that we take about 23,000 breaths in just one day?! The incredible anatomy of our respiratory system includes a synergy of vessels, tubes, valves and pumps that ensure our lungs are supplied with oxygen.
Most of us consider improving nutrition habits for the year ahead, but here’s a news flash: oxygen is a vital nutrient! The air is free, friends, so why not bump mindful breathing to the top of your list this year?
Here are 3 reason to clock more air time:
1. It improves the quality of your workout
O2 and working out are a powerful duo. Oxygen produces energy and helps break down blood sugars that are our fuel. Burning nutrients to make energy is a little process called metabolism, and optimal intake of air during fitness equals happy muscles.
2. It helps to decrease stress and anxiety
Work deadlines, traffic, crowds of people, negative news, uncontrollable tragic events. The list of things that can cause stress and anxiety in our daily lives is endless. We all need to take a deep breath. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, tactical breathing can ground and relax you. Ahh, doesn’t that feel better?
3. It allows for deeper meditation
Mindful breathing, slowing down and being calm may not be ideal for your high-intensity workouts, but breath acts as an essential guide for meditation. Next time you take a minute (or 10) to meditate, reflect on your breathing technique from the start, and go back to it whenever your mind starts to wander. Notice the difference in your practice when breath becomes your guide.
Mindful Breathing Exercise
This practice is one of my favorites because it is not just why your breathing but also how. Deep breathing into your belly takes you to your core instead of your upper body. (Many of my clients breathe in and up and then wonder why their neck hurts.) You can do this lying down or sit tall, and as with any practice, time spent makes progress.
1. Place hands on each side of your ribcage.
2. Inhale for a count of four and as you breathe in, fill your belly with air feel as your ribcage expands outward.
3. Hold for a count of two.
4. Exhale through your mouth for a count of six softly moving tips of fingertips towards each other as if you were gently pressing the air out of a balloon.
5. Repeat as many times as you have time for.
photo credit: Tim Goedhart