“Don’t forget to breathe!” is a common refrain in instructor-led fitness classes – we all do it, puffing and panting as we begin to feel the burn, gritting our teeth and holding on for dear life until we are told we can stop. Tense up the core and you automatically restrict your breath, so it takes conscious training to be able to breathe freely as you exercise.
Breathing to help you exercise
It’s one of the core elements of yoga practice: learning to breathe evenly even while your heart may be pumping. In fact breathing deeply and deliberately can help lower the heart rate again, so it’s a useful skill to develop. Breathing helps you to get fit and keep fit. Even more powerfully, you can use the breath to chase away pain. Yoga teaches you to “breathe into the pain” which creates a sort of meditative state of pain relief. Again, this means you can hold the position for longer, and reap the benefits of those burning quads!
Health benefits of breathing
Aside from the fitness benefits, you can use breathing techniques to help you in all sorts of other situations. It’s a well known method of pain control for contractions, and has even been shown to cure constipation! If you need help concentrating, focusing your attention on your breathing can help clear your mind of distractions.
Relax and deal with stress
Stress triggers the fight or flight response. This releases a rush of cortisol through the body, raises your heart rate and causes your breathing to become shallow and rapid, which can lead to hyperventilation. Controlled breathing, drawing breath up via the abdomen, reduces the effects of stress and helps relax the body. Using this sort of deep, steady abdominal breathing can help to control your nervous system and bring about a range of health benefits.
Breathing to help sleep
Scientist Dr Weil has pioneered an approach known as the 4-7-8 to help deal with insomnia. Based on an ancient Indian practice pranayama, meaning ‘regulation of breath’, it acts as a natural tranquilizer to the nervous system because it allows oxygen to better fill the lungs. The extra oxygen relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes a state of calmness. This simple technique is meant to send you to sleep in 60 seconds – so get breathing!
Help fight depression
Consciously breathing increases the flow of blood to the vital organs, energising the body. By voluntarily changing the rate, depth, and pattern of breathing, you can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain. These messages have a powerful effect on the major brain centres involved in thought, emotion, and behaviour, and doctors now believe that breathing and meditation can be as effective in treating depression as medication.
So, locate that diaphragm, take some deep breaths, and breathe yourself happy!
If you think your body is in need of a bit of de-stressing and relaxing, why not sign up to one of our Pure Stretch and Maintenance classes? Using the advantages of Power Plate® technology to improve your flexibility and range of motion, you will come out feeling taller, more relaxed and with improved circulation.