This post is not backed by any scientific trials, just theory mixed with a little personal experience.
Breathing deeply should be an every day practice. Vary the reasons for deep breaths. I believe an increase in frequency and size of breaths will leave you feeling better.
How often do you feel invigorated after a marathon Netflix binge?
A few deep breaths may help alleviate stress during the workday or limit anxiety prior to public speaking. Maybe you elevate your breath and your heart rate when you decide to take the stairs instead of an escalator. Perhaps you partake in an inspired yoga session, where breath and movement are linked. Or you find that runners high after running a half marathon.
Breath and movement are always linked. Once we stop breathing, we would stop moving shortly thereafter, obviously. Some breath is unconscious, i.e., it occurs without thought. If someone was hyperventilating and passed out, under normal circumstances they would likely start breathing again on their own. Conscious or “mindful” breathing is something that should be practiced. And sought after. Let’s explore.
Nasal breathing is an act we take for granted. Most of us do not let our mouths gape open, sucking air while at our computers or watching TV or cooking. With enough physical exertion our breath shortens and we find ourselves mouth breathing, which typically provides a shallow breath. Only times of extreme physical stress, full on sprint, etc. are we likely to only be able to manage a shallow breath. Breathing during activities above rest and below a maximum “sprint like” effort should be methodical in nature, deep breath in the nose, exhale our the nose or mouth. Filling the diaphragm from the nose, releasing CO2 and other byproducts as we exhale. After a while conscious breathing becomes an after thought. Then, when pushing your physical limits, the conscious effort to focus on breath becomes a welcome distraction from the physiological stress that comes with such efforts/expenditures.
During simple movements, inhaling should be done during eccentric movements and exhaling should be done during the concentric movement or effort portion of a motion. Think of a push up, inhaling as we lower ourselves and exhaling as we press the ground away. When things get difficult, sometimes we hold our breath attempting to eek out another repetition. This is counter-intuitive as the body requires oxygen to provide additional energy after a certain point to exertion. The brief breath hold or Valsalva Maneuver may provide a brief moment of momentum, but overall is useless in maintaining any type of effort.
This is easily practiced in slower paced movements, but what happens during higher intensity movements? We speed up our breath, deepen the breath and focus on pacing. Again if the pace becomes to intense our breath becomes increasingly shallow and we eventually must slow down to recoup respiration and manage heart rate to ensure oxygen needs are met and toxins are adequately removed from our system.
What activity is best engaged to produce deep breaths? I would venture to say “variety”. Engage in a variety of activities that will cause you to breath deeply. Engage in activities you actually LIKE. Whether it is meditation, yoga, weight lifting, laughing heartily, walking, jogging, outrunning the police, cycling, playing with your kids or grand children, taking stairs, playing an instrument, taking an improv class, walking the dog, chasing cars, skydiving etc. The list goes on.
I challenge you to do more than you did yesterday. It doesn’t have to be significant. Small improvements turn into big changes. As your fitness and mood improves, maybe you start exploring activities you’ve always wanted to try or seemed previously unattainable.
Now, challenge yourself and DO NOT forget to breath deep.