Several years ago, I had an accident. I severely injured my back and shoulder. Unfortunately, I was also someone who loved working out. Although I was limited in my movement, I slowly worked my way back up to my routine.
Over the next several years, my workout recovery time (probably also due to my age) was slowing down considerably. After each workout, I was drained and never as strong as the day before. Then, I discovered a YouTube video about yoga. The creator of this program was not what I expected. He was a former wrestler and about as subtle as a burp in church when barking out orders to his students. For me, this seemed like a perfect fit. I loved his intensity and began to believe in the hype.
“Control your breath, control your life.”
For the last three years, I have been an ardent supporter of this type of yoga. I have seen amazing results and my flexibility has increased significantly. My physical pain is minimal. I still do my long workouts – just every other day with yoga sessions in between.
This is not a commercial for yoga, but the instructor always stresses the importance of breathing. Our sessions begin with diaphragmatic breathing. He demands that we continue to control our breath throughout some uncomfortable positions. In one video, he calmly says, “Control your breath, control your life.” Now, I’m not saying that my life is always completely in order. However, I do think that he is on to something with this mantra.
Diaphragmatic breathing is not new. It has been around for years and is an integral component of mindfulness. Empirical evidence supports the notion that deep, focused breathing increases cognitive performance and reduces negative subjective and physical consequences of leading stressful lives (Ma et al., 2017).
One breathing exercise I advocate is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This is a simple technique that works well for me, fellow practitioners, and clients. To start, find a place that is comfortable and reasonably peaceful (I know that can be a challenge!). Then, follow the 4-7-8 method:
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a silent count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale deeply through your mouth to a count of eight.
Typically, I do this for five or six rounds, but there is no definite number of rounds to perform – modify as you see fit.
Personally, I love this technique because it is simple and straight-forward – and because it works.
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Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., … Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874