Stress and societal norms lead most of us to corrupt our breathing into short little sips of air that use our upper lungs but don’t begin to fill the large bases of the lung.  We think we should suck in our belly and raise our shoulders to get air in.  WRONG!! Oh so wrong. Here is a list of stretches, postures and exercises that ideally are done throughout your day and become habits. It starts with an intentional commitment to 15 minutes per day of learning how. The practice then becomes second nature and a part of your daily life.

Why do this? Enhanced athletic performance, reduce snoring, resolve asthma, oxygenate your cells for better energy, lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate and dozens of other benefits.

 

STRETCHES

Rib Stretch – side bend and belly breathe.

  • Lie on a rolled pillow or BOSU to expand the ribs facing the ceiling.
  • Seated or standing, collapse one side while opening the other. Deep breaths.
  • Stretch both sides.

Seated Twists

  • Sitting on floor, lay your left knee on the ground bent and cross the right knee over bent and pointing toward the sky. Now twist to the left and belly breathe
  • Repeat in the opposite direction
  • Can do this same type move seated in a chair. Look behind you using the chair back for leverage.

Lying Twist

  • Left leg straight, ankle crosses midline and pull towards your head. Now allow left wrist to fall to the left and touch the ground.  Belly breath.

Posture

  • Back and head against the wall. Scapula squeeze together. Stand up straight which is a challenge after you hunched over your computer for 8 hours.
  • Butterfly arms keeping them ON the wall. With back to the wall, slide your arms up and down like a butterfly keeping your forearms touching the wall the whole time.
  • Stretch pecs, laying on the BOSU with weights. Arch you back over a BOSU or pillow so that you really accentuate arching your back to stretch the chest muscles that have become contracted from hunching over your computer. Now take in deep nasal breaths.
     

Breathing Exercises Menu – from a variety of sources.

  1. Diaphragmatic – full range of motion, squeezing out all the air, the stale air and then
       expanding rib cage as wide as possible as you drop the diaphragm and breath in
       through your NOSE as you push your belly button OUT.  Belly breathing.
    1. Nasal Breath – belly button OUT as you inhale, and then squeeze in.
    2. Nasal breathing is 100x more beneficial than mouth breathing.
       
  2. Air Packing - Full inhale and then take 2 more sips of air to expand chest
    1. Deep breath, relax and pause for 2 seconds then take another forced sip of air, one or two sips. Goal is maximizing and expand lung capacity.
       
  3. Pulsed breaths – 4x/day.   Squeeze the exhale.
    1. Exhale in short pumping-action breaths, like you are trying to blow a candle out 3 feet away. 5-10 sharp puffs of air
    2. Works the muscles that will become automatic as you learn to FULLY exhale naturally. Get rid of ALL of your air, stale old stuff from the bases.
    3. Raise the diaphragm up into the chest as you exhale.
    4. Exhale thru mouth or try it thru your nose.
    5. Try doing it in stages or pausing between exhales.
    6. By cleaning out the “basement” of the lungs there is more room for new breath.
       
  4. Feather breaths – slow in and out breaths.  Pretend there is a feather beneath your nose and if the feather moves at all you fail. Ancient Ninja training.
    1. Goal to become hypoxic and build up carbon dioxide.
    2. Stay hypoxic for 5 minutes.  Carbon dioxide build up. You will feel like you are suffocating but try to stay with it and allow the body to accommodate.
    3. “3/7”  Inhale for 3 seconds and SLOWLY exhale for 7 seconds.  Or some variation of this so that you build up carbon dioxide.
       
  5. Timed SLOW breathing – 5 breaths per minute. One inhale/exhale every 12 seconds
    1. Use a timer and breath at the 0 à 12 à24 à36 à48 à start over
    2. Then see if you can slow down the breath to breath just Twice per minute. Slow in hale and then slow squeezing exhale so that each breath is 30 seconds.
    3. Relax into it and monitor your heart rate. It will drop as you relax.
    4. Use an APP that paces you: “Paced Breathing” uses a gentle sound that rises and falls every 5 seconds to signify inhale, then exhale.

Simply play with and become proficient with each of these exercises. There is no magic number or formula, just relax into these different breathing patterns and allow them to become a part of your day. I mix these exercises with some of my meditation practices. I also do these while exercising or riding my bike.