For millennia breath control exercises have been the secret weapon of advanced yogis, qigong adepts, master healers, and warrior-monks to forge phenomenal strength, super human body control, and extraordinary vitality.
When disciplines such as yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Internal Martial Arts, and Qigong have been successfully used over thousands of years to heal the sick, strengthen the weak, and bring energy to the depleted, you don’t question them – you study them!
While obviously these disciplines have their own unique modalities and practices, working with the breath is the common thread that runs through each of them. And there’s a very specific reason why each have evolved sophisticated breathing exercises that are used with such a high degree of success.
Breathing is the only function of the human body that bridges both the autonomic and the voluntary nervous systems. You can breathe on complete autopilot all day long without ever consciously thinking about, and yet you can also choose to take a deep breath, exhale sharply, or even hold the breath at any time.
Herein lies the secret of breathing exercises – because it spans both sides of the nervous system specific breathing techniques are able to influence things such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscular tension, and stress levels.
Over the centuries, adepts of these disciplines (and others) have created literally hundreds of breathing exercises that have been consistently shown through practical experience to
· Enhance whole body strength
· Increase lung capacity
· Reduce stress
· Improve endurance
· Fire up the body’s bioenergy
· Increase flexibility and range of motion
· Improve pain tolerance/reduce pain
· Build resilience and resistance to disease
· Improve performance under stress
· Not to mention relax, revitalize, and rejuvenate the body through meditation and relaxation exercises!
The basic premise of our ability to influence the autonomic nervous system is that inhalation increases heart rate, which subsequently increase blood pressure, to a slight degree, while exhalation lowers heart rate and blood pressure to a slight degree.
During our normal cycle of breathing, these changes are too minute to register, or even notice. But, by gradually lengthening our breath and extending the pause before inhaling and exhaling, we compound the effect.
Stand in a natural position or sit comfortably on the floor with spine straight to perform this exercise.
1. Begin by exhaling through the mouth for 5 seconds.
2. Do not inhale. Try to extend the breath pause for 5 seconds.
3. Before tension begins to creep in, inhale for 5 seconds.
4. Hold the breath on the inhale for 5 seconds.
5. Repeat the cycle 10 times.
6. As this becomes easier, and your capacity expands, try increasing the duration to 6, 7, 8 seconds.
In this breathing exercise we will utilize a protocol founded by yoga and improved upon by Russian sport science and martial art. Here we will divide the breath into 3 levels: clavicular (upper level), intercostal (mid level), Diaphragmatic (lower level). This exercise will focus only on the clavicular, or upper level. Use this powerful breathing exercise to fire up your energy and prepare your body for training!
1. Exhale through the mouth in a short, quick burst by compressing the upper chest.
2. Do not actively inhale. Allow the inhale to happen by relaxing the muscles in the chest.
3. Repeat rapidly 20 to 40 times.
4. Build up to where you can perform continuously for 60 seconds.
5. If you become dizzy, stop and sit down and breathe normally!
This exercise is literally a life saver when doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts! It can be used in between exercises as well as in between sets, during the rest period, and also at the end of the workout to normalize breathing and dramatically lower heart rate.
1. Forcefully exhale as deeply as possible by rolling your shoulders forward, tilting the pelvis up, and contracting the core strongly.
2. Pause before the inhale for a few seconds.
3. As stated above, do not actively inhale. Allow the breath to be sucked back in through the nose as your body returns to a natural standing posture.
4. Repeat for about 60 seconds, or as long as needed.
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