If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, chances are the instructor talked about controlling your breathing, even if it’s just to align your inhales and exhales to your poses. Have you ever wondered why breath work is such an important part of a yoga practice?
Whether you’re practicing yoga or participating in another form of exercise, being aware of your breath is extremely important. Your breath is your power, your path to presence and your body’s life force. Breathing delivers oxygen to every cell of our body and rids it of carbon dioxide. The rate of our breathing relates directly to the beat of our hearts, and the quality of our breath can affect our brains. And yet we take this involuntary function for granted.
How often do you actually think about your breath? Let’s take a moment to focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Think about each inhale and exhale. Notice: What’s happened physically? What’s happened mentally? Do you feel more present?
When it comes to our training sessions, mindful breathing can transform our workouts.
Mindful breathing helps us:
- Avoid Injury: Proper breathing will ensure your muscles receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting.
- Lift Heavier: In strength training, focusing your exhale on the exertion will help you lift heavier.
- Avoid Negative Thinking: When you’re mindful of your breath, you can be mindful of your thoughts. Each inhale is an opportunity to change the negative to positive; to reset. As humans, we have single track minds. If you’re thinking about your breath, you aren’t thinking about how hard you’re working.
- Increase Endurance: Even breathing helps you maintain a steady, consistent pace in long distance endurance exercises.
- Release Tension: Breathing creates space in the body and helps release tension.
Mindful breathing can be uncomfortable at first, but like any other muscle you work, your lungs respond to repetition. Whether on the treadmill or in the weight room, start each workout with 3 mindful breaths. Practice mindful breathing throughout your day. As with any habit, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes, and soon you’ll start to feel the effects mindful breathing can have on your mental and physical health.
Post written by FFC Contributor and Group Fitness Manager Elissa Peterson.