Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Belly Breathing

I finally worked my way through Tara Stiles' 60-Minute Strong Flow, which is on Disc One of her This Is Yoga DVD series. After a strenuous Circuit Sculpt yesterday morning, I felt pretty sore when I woke up today so I thought some yoga would help me loosen up—which it did. Partially because of the pose flow, partially because of the belly breathing.

Why is belly breathing so important? It's the most efficient way to send oxygen soaring through your body. Belly breathing, otherwise known as "diaphragmatic breathing" or "deep breathing", pulls a ton of air into your lungs and pushes a ton of carbon dioxide out. Good stuff in, bad stuff out. It's that easy—except it isn't. Belly breathing is something that doesn't always come naturally, especially when you are exercising. The harder you work, the easier it is to rely on short, quick breaths that come from the chest rather than the abdomen. This hinders your intake of oxygen and, consequently, the quality of your workout.

Do this with me for a second: Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen to check for belly breathing. If you're doing it, the hand on your abdomen will rise and fall. If it isn't, start taking slow and deep breaths in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Not only will this transition you to belly breathing, you might also notice it introduce a sense of calm to your state of being. When we tense up, get stressed or angry, we tend to forgo belly breathing. But a return to it can almost instantly calm you down.

Ironically, Hannah and I just found a video online that discusses this very subject:

Nothing like a little Elmo to make you happy. So next time you feel a bad mood coming on, breathe from the belly. Do it when you exercise, too. In fact, take it one step further and be so mindful of every breath in your workout that it eliminates more than carbon dioxide:

Question: How mindful are you of your breath? Do you do breathing exercises outside of yoga? Do you meditate? I am always in awe of people that do. I don't think I have the patience for it.

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