Breathing isn't something we often think about, yet how we breathe can deeply affect how we feel and move. Proper breathing, a trainer of pro athletes tells us, takes practice.
Photo by Hernan Pinera.
CNN offers six exercises you can do to learn how to breathe more effectively, designed by Dana Santas, a yoga trainer for pro athletes for the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Orlando Magic, and others in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Proper breathing allows these athletes to move better and also focus more.
Most of the suggested breathing exercises are built into yoga moves (naturally, since Santas is a yoga trainer), but there's a simple seated exercise you can do, which involves holding your hands at the center of your chest, pulling the muscles below your shoulder blades down, and inhaling, pausing, and exhaling for five counts each. It's all about the diaphragm:
With your hands together at the center of your chest, close your eyes and activate the muscles below your shoulder blades (lower trapezius) to pull them downward. You should feel the uppermost back muscles that run into your neck (upper trapezius) relax. When you inhale, gently push the pads of your fingers into each other in sequence, starting at your pinkies, for a count of five. Repeat on exhale. Pause after exhaling without taking another breath for another five count. Focus your attention on the movement of your ribcage as you breathe. Inhale and expand your ribcage, especially at its base. Exhale as you internally rotate your low ribs and drop your ribcage toward your waist. During the pause, keep your side waist muscles (obliques) and low, deep core (transverse abdominus) engaged to keep the ribcage down. Avoid vertical movement as you inhale -- no shoulder shrugging or collarbones lifting. Repeat for 10 breaths. Note: If you find you can continue exhaling after a five count, increase your exhalation time as much as necessary to completely empty your lungs before pausing.
Though it might seem silly to train yourself to breathe, even if you're not a pro athlete more effective breathing could mean less stress, less tension, and better posture -- things we could all probably use.