Pranayama translates to life force management which we can do through our breath. Breathing is a muscular activity that is tied to the nervous system. Exercises involving breath can energize, calm and balance your body and mind.
Like many seasoned athletes, I’ve learned the hard way and worked back from there. I know how it feels to have tight breathing muscles before a race and that has quickly led to a feeling of not being able to breathe. During a triathlon start, this usually means a panic attack in the water. There have also been many times when I’ve turned my head to breathe during the swim and get nothing but a mouthful of water or better yet, a fist in my face. Being open and calm enough to skip a breath while being punched in the face or the like, is crucial to remaining in control during a physically challenging experience.
The following exercises are a recipe of breath that seems to serve me well before any type of race. I will usually do them before my warm-up or in the final moments before the gun goes off. Give them a try at your next starting line, presentation, confrontation, or anything that puts you out of your comfort zone and report back on how they served you. On your mark, get set, namaste!
Breathe into your belly, feel it expand. Pause, don’t exhale. Breathe into your lungs and feel the expansion of your ribs. Pause, don’t exhale. Breathe into your chest and feel your collarbone lift.
Hold for a count of five.
Release slow and controlled from your chest first, lungs next, and finish by emptying out your belly.
Repeat this three times.
Start with a cleansing breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let it all go.
Breathe in through your nose again and without pausing, exhale forcefully through your nose by pumping your low belly. Feel your belly fill with air during the inhale and use your abdominal muscles to push the air out during the exhale. Practice several times then speed it up – the breath should be quick and loud. Do this for a count of 30-45.
Then inhale deeply, hold the breath in and lock the pelvic floor creating an upward trajectory for your energy. Hold until you have the impulse to breathe then slowly exhale.
Rest and repeat three times.
Tense and Release
Take a big breath in and tense every muscle in your body. Don’t hurt yourself, just tense everything.
Hold for five seconds.
Then empty your body slow and controlled.
Repeat this three times.
Breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. Slowly exhale for a count of eight.
This is great for calming the nervous system and putting nervous energy to rest as exhales are governed by your healing nervous system. By making your exhales longer you will have no other choice than to feel more relaxed.
Repeat three times.