Do you practice diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing? Do you breathe when you stretch? Correct breathing – slow, relaxed “belly” breathing – is important for effective stretching, rolling out and many other activities. Good breathing helps us relax, increases blood flow throughout the body, and helps relieve built-up tension. With practice, correct breathing is a simple, yet highly effective tool.
As you breathe in, the diaphragm presses downward on the internal organs and their associated blood vessels, squeezing the blood out of them. As you exhale, the abdomen, its organs and muscles, and their blood vessels flood with new blood. This rhythmic contraction and expansion of the abdominal blood vessels is partially responsible for the circulation of blood in the body. The rhythmic pumping action, referred to as the respiratory pump, also helps remove waste products.
The respiratory pump is important during stretching and rolling out because increased blood flow to muscles improves their elasticity, and increases the rate at which lactic acid is removed from them. Work on slow, relaxed breathing when you stretch and roll out.
BREATHING AWARENESS EXERCISE
Observe your normal breathing pattern without making any changes, nor controlling the breath in any way. Simply observe, and notice the quality of your breathing, depth, evenness, sound, smoothness, roughness, rate. Let the breath come and go in its own natural rhythm.
Follow the breath from moment to moment, and develop sensitivity by the direct experience of feeling the breath as it enters and leaves the body.
Breathe in and out the nostrils.
Feel the breath, and follow it, the moment it enters your nostrils, through the nasal passages, throat, trachea, bronchi and into the lungs. Let the exhalation be a long, slow release.
Notice whether or not you are breathing equally into each nostril and lungs. Be aware of tightness and restriction in the rib cage. Notice the quality and amount of expansion in the ribs and lungs. Do both lungs expand equally? Into which part of the lungs do you mostly breathe?
If you practice breathing with awareness, the quality of your breathing will improve with little effort.
BREATHING EXERCISE #2
How can I relax and bring my heart rate down? Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Here’s an exercise. It takes practice, so be patient and persistent.
Get comfortable, either sitting, or lying on your back with pillows under the knees or lower legs on a couch.
1. Breathe in slowly and deeply, using diaphragm, 4-6 seconds (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc)
2. Hold your breath for about three seconds
3. Slowly begin to exhale, counting for twice as long as the inhale, and gently pushing from down low for the last 2 or 3 seconds to get that last bit of stale air all the way out.
Repeat steps 1-3, two more times for a total of three times. Next breathe normally for ten breaths. Then repeat the whole sequence. Although it takes practice, this is a relatively simple relaxation tool and it works really well.