Do you think you are working your lungs to their full capacity during exercise? Think again. According to the experts, heavy breathing during sports and aerobic exercise can’t give you all the benefits that actual breathing exercises can. Some of those benefits include: improvement in spatial memory, stress relief, increased attention span, increased lung capacity and oxygen intake.
Of course Yoga is my favorite way to get my breathing practice in for a day, but here are a couple of other techniques that I teach. They are easy to remember and simple to do any time of the day or night.
From a sitting position: Hold one nostril closed and breath in through the other for a count of 2 (one one thousand, two one thousand). Hold for an 8 count, and then exhale through the other nostril for a count of 4. Keep switching back and forth.
An easy one to try anywhere without looking conspicuous: Inhale very slowly to a count of 5 through the nose, hold for the same amount and then exhale through the nose for the same count. Work up to a 10 count if you can. (I used this one on 9/11 first responders to help increase their lung capacity and it worked like a charm every time.)
A new exercise that I just learned promises to engage both sides of the brain in order to help relieve stress and trauma. As it was told to me by a hypno/trauma therapist: “Physiologically, it turns up the positive Relaxation Response (parasympathetic nervous system) while it tones down the negative Stress Response (sympathetic – fight or flight – nervous system), allowing you to be more in control of your responses to negative or stressful situations, feelings or thoughts.
Sitting in a chair with feet on floor, gently breathe in through your nose for a Count of 2 (one, one thousand, two, one thousand). Softly hold your breath while you ROLL YOUR EYES UPWARD (like looking inside of your head) for a Count of 4. Then, release your eyes, relax your eyelids and slowly exhale through pursed lips (similar to blowing out a candle) for a Count of 8. With eyes remaining closed, scan your body and bring your attention to your shoulders and neck, or any other area in your body holding tension or stress and relax them. Repeat for a total of two minutes.
Experts suggest doing these exercises every waking hour of every day or as needed until they become habit. Try doing them with the entire family in the car. It is a great way to teach kids how to deal with stress!
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