1. Exhale during exertion: Ever feel like a heavy lift is just out of reach? Using your breath properly can give you that extra edge and encourage stronger form. Always exhale when you are exerting the maximum energy. For example, in a deadlift breathe at the top, hold the breath as you push your hips back, exhale as you push your hips forward and lift the weight. This will help your core stabilize as you lift. It's a good idea to start your practice with warm up level weights, so you can get used to this breathing flow.
2. Avoid shallow breathing: Learn how a good, full breath feels. Fill your belly full with air and empty it all the way. Many people will breath the air into the shoulders, adding more tension to an already tense area. Allow your breath to travel from your lungs to your belly; this is called diaphragmatic breathing.
3. Breathing to relieve stress: Along with diaphragmatic breathing, you can also try pursed lip breathing. With relaxed shoulders, take a normal breath for about 2 counts. Then pucker your lips up (think of your mouth when you're about to whistle - that's what your lips should look like!) and exhale for 4 counts. Do this for a few rounds, or until you feel calm.
4. Breathing & Sleep: Do you have trouble falling asleep? Can't seem to turn off the day? Slow, deep breathing actually helps the body override the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight response, and lets the parasympathetic system, which controls our ability to relax, take the wheel instead.
5. Yoga Breathing: Yoga breathing, or alternate nostril breathing, is another great way to calm a busy mind! To practice, place your right thumb over your right nostril as you breathe in through the left nostril. Then take your right ring finger and place it over your left nostril as you exhale from the right one. Continue alternating breaths through each nostril until you feel relaxed.
6. 4-7-8 Breathing: Still having trouble sleeping? This metronome style of breathing will lull you into deep sleep. Exhale through your mouth and then close it and inhale through your nose for 4 counts. Hold the breath in for 7 counts, then release it in 8 counts. Repeat at least three times or until you nod off. Because you have 8 counts to get the breath out in, you're forced to slow down your breathing which, in turn, slows down the heart rate and helps you relax.
7. Breathing to run better: While there's no golden rule, many runners find it most comfortable to take one breath for every two foot strides. This means taking two steps (one left, one right) while breathing in and two steps while breathing out-also known as the 2:2 rhythm. Because the diaphragm and surrounding organs are all subject to the forces of gravity, synchronizing the breath to your running pace will keep the organs from putting unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm, which can make running more uncomfortable than it needs to be!
8. Recovery Breathing: Breathing deeper, calmer, and more efficiently can also give athletes a psychological edge against their opponents. It calms and centers the mind and the body when you need to focus on performance.
9. The Great Nose vs. Mouth Debate: At the end of the day, you should try breathing through the mouth and the nose to find what feels more natural for you, but experts say that nose breathing has more benefits, including increased oxygen uptake. Breathing through the nose can also help warm the air entering the lungs (cold weather workouts, we're looking at you!) and might minimize allergen intake!
10. Building a stronger respiratory system: In addition to working the cardiovascular system through aerobic exercise, you can do simple stretches to improve lung strength and capacity. Practice deep, full breathing while standing upright with a slightly arched back. Inhale to your lungs' maximum capacity, feeling the stretch in your ribs, and hold for at least 10 seconds. Exhale slowly.