Why Breathwork Training Matters for Your Workouts
Very few things in life can top the feeling of a deep, slow, relaxing breath. A good, deep breath tells your brain to calm down. There are times when calm isn't what you want, however. Sometimes you want that extra punch to get you into high gear, like during your workout. That's when proper breathwork matters.
What Is Breathwork?
"Breathwork" is the term associated with structured breathing exercises or techniques. People practice breathwork to help improve their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. When you're doing good breathwork, you intentionally alter your breathing pattern.
There are several different kinds of breathwork that focus on various goals. Most of these have the same basic foundations. We're going to concentrate on the breathwork that's best during your workout.
Breathwork Training: When and How Much?
Since our bodies are wired to breathe on autopilot, it's not something that takes years of training. But breathing can be adjusted based on a variety of conditions and for specific needs. With practice, you can regulate your respiratory process to fit your activity level at any time, whether you're just laid back and relaxing or thirty minutes into a serious cardio session.
The more activity you're engaged in, the more oxygen your body will need. The more efficiently your breathing can deliver the oxygen your muscles need, the harder and more efficiently you can work your exercise routine. That means you can up your game, which leads to better results.
You should practice breathwork training every time you workout. Proper breathing should be one of your main priorities during each and every exercise session. Most types of breathwork have the same ultimate goal: to move energy through the body. This usually involves approximately twenty minutes to an hour of sustained, rhythmic breathing techniques.
Some of the sensations described by those practicing breathwork include the following:
- Tingling sensations throughout the body
- Increased awareness
- An increase in their mind-body connection
- Feelings of clarity
- Emotional purging
A Few Tips for Incorporating Breathwork Into Your Life
As with any new undertaking, the best way to begin is to start slow and small. Work your way into it. Here's a few examples of how to ease your way into incorporating breathwork into your daily activity regimen:
- Do your breathwork first thing in the morning or right before bed.
- Try doing your breathwork in the middle of the day as a pick-me-up to help you push through the afternoon.
- Practice 20 to 45 minutes of breathwork daily.
A Cautionary Word to the Wise
As with just about anything in this world of ours, there is a downside to doing breathwork. It isn't always appropriate for every occasion. For example, a few things to consider before engaging in breathwork of any sort:
- Never do breathwork while driving.
- If you're engaged in an activity that requires you to pay close attention to your environment, that is not the time to engage in breathwork.
- Never do breathwork while submerged in water.
Benefits of Breathwork
As noted previously, there are different variations of breathwork that can be tailored to fit your individual needs. Here's a quick look at some of the results you may expect from slow and fast breathing techniques:
- Relaxed feeling
- Lower levels of cortisol
- Immediate stress reduction
- Examples of slow breathing: box breath, 4-7-8 breathing, belly breathing, alternate nostrils breathing
- Increases adrenaline, helping you feel alert
- Short-term increase in cortisol, improving your stress response
- Stimulated your immune response
- Lowers inflammation
- Examples of fast breathing techniques: holotropic breathwork, the breath of fire, Wim Hof Breathing
Breathwork and Healthy Hearts
The benefits of deep breathing -- even nothing more than a few deep breaths -- can decrease blood pressure and lower cortisol levels. Formal breathwork practices can have even more impressive positive effects on the body overall. It has some benefits that have an especially positive impact on the heart.
- Sustained rapid breathing moves carbon dioxide out of the blood, reducing the blood's acidic levels. Hence, the practice shifts blood pH to more alkaline.
- Consistent breathwork exercises the diaphragm muscles that are responsible for 80% of your breathing.
- The autonomic nervous system releases more epinephrine with sustained breathwork. A surge in epinephrine causes an increase in anti-inflammatory activity.
- Deep breathing exercises improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure.
- Mindful breathing elevates mood and reduces stress.
Breathwork and Workouts
When you're working out, your focus probably stays on the exercise you're doing at the moment: Are you using good form? How's your pacing? Can you push yourself to complete the exercise? All valid points for consideration, but you're missing a part of the equation that's too often overlooked: proper breathing.
When you pay attention to your breathing while you're training, you're exerting more control over your body, keeping yourself calm, maintaining your level of alertness, and actively engaging all your muscles.
How to Practice Breathwork
There are numerous approaches to breathwork. Sometimes it helps to try out two or three techniques before deciding which one is best for you. A few of the more popular techniques are detailed here:
- Box breathing. This is also known as square breathing. This technique is used when slow, deep breaths are needed. Benefits include heightened performance and concentration while reducing stress. It's popular with athletes, police officers, and U.S. Navy SEALS.
- Pursed lip breathing. This breathing technique works most when you're focused or relaxed. Inhale through your nose for two seconds, then purse your lips and breath out slowly, then repeat. Purse lip breathing improves lung mechanics.
- Military 3:2 ratio breathing. If anyone knows how to maximize the benefits of exercise, it's the U.S. military. If you're into running as part of your routine, you'll want to oxygenate your muscles and clear the carbon dioxide fully from your body. To do this, try the military 3:2 inhale-to exhale ratio. These are full inhales and full exhales. Use your footfalls to set your rhythm. Inhale on the left, right, left footfalls. Then exhale on the right, left footfalls. It takes a little practice but soon becomes second nature.