Dec 10, 2012 12:58PM
It’s easy to take breathing for granted. But tune in to your breath—when, say, halfway through a sun salutation or headed for a finish line—and you’ll find that it not only feeds muscles fresh oxygen, but also indicates whether it’s time to increase the intensity of the activity. To get the most out of every breath, follow these exercise tips from acknowledged experts.
With closed lips, breathe in sharply and deeply through the nose. Then purse the lips as if trying to blow out a candle and exhale through the mouth. While running, breathe in for one step and out for two.
“The rapid inhale and slower exhale in this technique fills lungs from the bottom,” explains Danny Dreyer, author of ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. “Breathing exercises help take in more air when inhaling and empty lungs completely when exhaling. Muscles receive more glycogen, which lowers the chances of their cramping up.”
Use the Hindu breathing method called ujjayi, in which the lungs are fully expanded. First, inhale once with the mouth open, and then exhale the same way, making a “Ha,” sound. Then close your mouth and continue making the same sound while inhaling and exhaling through the nose (it will resemble the rushing sound that Darth Vader makes in Star Wars movies).
“Your breathing is the barometer of all your poses,” says Elena Brower, founder and co-owner of Virayoga, in New York City. If you’re gasping for air, back out of the pose. “Always give preference to deeper breathing over deeper postures,” advises Brower. This controlled breathing technique is largely responsible for the yoga buzz that helps keep students coming back for more.
Exhale through the mouth when lifting weights and inhale through the nose when lowering them. As a rule of thumb, take two seconds to raise weights and three to four seconds to lower them.
“Focusing on your breath keeps your brain in the game, so you’re more likely to pay attention to overall form,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist, personal trainer and fitness consultant in Darien, Connecticut.
“The key to breathing on a bike is to go in through the nose and out through the mouth, and to be as relaxed as possible,” Holland counsels. As intensity increases on climbs or long rides, breathe more forcefully—deeper, quicker inhalations through the nose and rapid exhalations through the mouth.
“The more relaxed your breathing is, the more relaxed your entire body will be,” says Holland. “Relaxed breathing conserves energy, prevents fatigue and improves endurance.” Using forceful breaths when you’re tired also sends more energizing oxygen to muscles to help counter fatigue.