Breathing 101: Helpful Hints
Every once in awhile, you may hear or read that you can lose weight just by breathing. Wow! Who wouldn’t want to sign up for that one?
But, as you might expect, there are some qualifications that make it not exactly too good to be true.
- As it turns out, if you are breathing more BECAUSE YOU ARE EXERCISING you can lose weight! Go figure.
- Breathing advocates say that as we breathe, fat is broken down and then we exhale the by-products, mostly carbon dioxide. The thing is, when your body is creating energy that you need to exist, there is a much more complicated process going on in the trenches called “cellular respiration”. In this process, your body sometimes uses fat to give you energy, but not always. Your body can also use carbohydrates that are hanging around, or even protein (in a pinch). It is not as simple as the breathing people would have us believe.
But all is not lost! You actually CAN increase your chances of losing weight by breathing that isn’t related to actual exercise. Once you instill good breathing, your body can function at a higher level of activity more comfortably.
Think of it this way. How many times have you come home from work, or after sitting all day, with chronically elevated shoulders, tight muscles at the front of your chest, and neck pain? All you want to do is relax. Working out or getting in some exercise is out of the question because you are just too pooped. Why? Chances are that unconsciously you have not had a good, deep, breath all day.
Yet another way to think about it is this: Improper breathing is like only doing part of an exercise. Suppose you do half of a squat, half of a bicep curl, half of a leg raise. Not taking a full breath is just like that. You are not using the true capability of your breathing muscles, and are not taking advantage of the extra oxygen you could be getting or the ease you could be feeling. Taking full breaths can be a tension release for daily life, helpful during a stretching routine, and is a way to get the most out of your exercise.
So let’s get down to it. Here’s a breathing tutorial, if you will.
- During the day, several times a day, take a few seconds to check out your breathing. Lift your chest, put your shoulders down and back, and take three big breaths. You may feel better instantly!
- Once you are in a place where you can do this, lie down on the floor or a mat (bed not recommended). You may notice that once you eliminate the pull of gravity on you when you are standing, your breathing becomes slower and easier.
- Put one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Just doing this will help you focus on breathing and will get your mind off of whatever you were thinking about. (Try it…you will notice that without placing your hands in position it is much harder to focus and track your breath.) Take 3-5 relaxed, deep breaths, breathing into the areas where your hands are placed.
- Now take your hands and place them around your rib cage at mid-chest level. Breathe in to this area and feel your chest expanding. Take 3-5 relaxed, deep breaths. Voila! Done!
Here are a few more helpful hints to make this work even better for you.
- Say “shhhh” on the exhale. This helps dissolve the blocks or areas of tension that can occur during exhalation.
- Do the first exercise several times a day, as suggested. Do the lying down ones once or twice a day if you can manage it. This can help you get relaxed and give your body a chance to develop better breathing habits.
- You can also add the last two exercises in after a workout or a stretching session. It is a nice way to transition from whatever you were doing to the next part of your day, and it is like a little reward for you that can make you feel great.
Will any of this help you lose weight? Well, if it means that you have more energy, feel more alert and motivated, and are feeling better in your body, then you are probably more likely to get up and move more often. This translates to moving more, in subtle and perhaps less subtle ways. And that burns calories.
PS. As you probably know, there are lots of disciplines that teach breathing as a way to help with exercise, increase body awareness, or develop mental focus. This just underscores that proper breathing is important!
Share your best breathing experience! Leave a comment below.
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