Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Breathing is inherently an automatic human function but when it comes to controlling your breathing in order to maximise physical performance not many can do this. Because of its natural nature you may think you’ll be fine breathing as normal, or as your body tells you to when your out for a jog or at the gym.
In this blog post we’ll show you 3 beginner breathing exercises you can start right now.
On average we tend to breath anywhere from 14 to 20 breaths per minute as standard (sorry if that makes you count), “which is about three times faster than the 5 or 6 breaths per minute proven to help you feel your best”, says Patricia Gerbarg, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and co-author of The Healing Power of the Breath.
To begin, lie on your back and rest your hands on your stomach. The aim of this technique is to breathe all the way down into your stomach on an inhale, then breathe out fully on an exhale.
Start by breathing deeply, all the way into your stomach. You should feel your stomach push up and into your hands on your inhale.
Then fully exhale, feeling your stomach fall away from your hands. Do this breath at your own pace. You may find you need to slow as well as deepen your regular breath to allow it to reach your stomach.
To begin with practice this exercise for around 5 minutes at time. Increase you practice time as your feel more confident and comfortable. Aim for the 5-6 breathes per minute area we mentioned above.
The next technique is breath lengthening. The aim of this is to lengthen the time you take to inhale and exhale. This is particularly good if you are someone who struggles to relax as the concentrating on counting in this breath gives the mind focus.
To begin, find a comfortable position, seated, lying, whatever you prefer.
Take a minute or so to breathe naturally and roughly time your inhale and exhale. Once you have worked out the length of your usual inhale and exhale you can begin to try and lengthen it. Try increasing it by two. For example, if your normally inhale and exhale for the count of two try to increase the time to four etc.
Once you have managed to lengthen your breath, practice it at this length for a few sessions before moving on. Once you are comfortable at the next breath length try and move up by two again.
Practice this breathing technique for around 5 minutes to begin with. As you get more comfortable increase your practice length as desired.
Longer exhale than inhale:
This technique follows on from the technique above. The difference however, is that instead of trying to lengthen both your inhale and exhale the aim is to exhale for longer than you inhale.
Having a longer exhale than inhale is said to make you feel calm and relaxed. And, as with the technique above the counting and concentrating gives your mind something to focus on if you have trouble switching off.
To begin find a comfortable position. Take a few moments to time your normal inhale and exhale.
Once you have established these breathe in as normal, then lengthen your exhale.
The eventual aim is to breathe for a 1:2 ratio, i.e your exhale is double the length of your inhale. Start by trying to lengthen your exhale by one or two counts and then go from there. When practice start with a 5-minute practice and gradually increase the time spent practising.
Try to do this routine one or twice a week, daily If you can, and see what benefits it brings you. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day at work or are feeling nervous about an upcoming event give these a go and see if they make a difference. I hope they do!