The Refined Collective: Just Breathe

Inhale....exhale...breathe here. Relief stress in life and your workouts by simply breathing.

These are the words I have been hearing every single day in each and every single one of my yoga classes and throughout my Yoga teacher training through Corepower Yoga. As I've mentioned before, I have a love/hate relationship and sometimes still find myself really struggling with my breath. So when one says just breathe, I wonder are they telling me this while I'm in a difficult asana, a different moment in my life, or both? Every notice how they often say in yoga, "What you do on your mat here, take it with you in life.." The greatest lesson I've learned in my short lived yoga practice is how important it is to let go and allow yourself to feel the difficulties and just breathe.

Our minds and bodies are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. What we can achieve if we give ourselves a chance is simply amazing. But do you ever notice that when you're training and that rep is extra heavy or you're in a challenging pose, the one thing your body seems to do is hold onto your breath. It's a defense mechanism our bodies initiate when we feel we're in danger. We brace our entire bodies, tighten up every fiber inside us, and hold on to our breath as if its the last one we'll take. It's as if we our lives are threatened.

Breathing doesn't just affect our physical state, it also controls our emotions more specifically anger and fear. Your breath can engage the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as your rest and digest system. Breathing deeply into your lower abdomen engages the relaxation response and makes you feel more calm, present, and centered. This has a huge effect on your day because when you feel calm internally, everything going on externally feels much less abrasive. You can handle road bumps, deadlines, and anything else that comes your way with a greater sense of ease, intuition, and presence.

During a workout and in life there are two methods of breathing that can help you relief stress and get you through your movements. 

SOFT BELLY BREATH

Practice in bed in the morning or evening with your knees bent. If sitting in a chair, sit upright so you’re able to support your own spine. Place your hands on your belly, thumbs at the navel and fingertips below. Allow the belly to expand under your fingertips on the inhale and to contract on the exhale.

Envision an ocean wave: The belly expands on the inhale – the wave rises; the navel contracts on the exhale – the wave returns to the ocean. If you aren’t getting any movement, press your fingertips gently into your belly so you know it’s contracting on the exhale. Release the press on the inhale. As the expansion and contraction become more natural, focus on keeping a rhythmic breathing pattern, where the inhale and exhale are equal. Soft belly breathing can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the heart, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest) through the phrenic nerve that runs down both sides of the diaphragm.

ECCENTRIC/CONCENTRIC BREATHING

Concentric muscle actions (the muscle shortens under load) and eccentric muscle actions (the muscle lengthens under load).  You think of this as lifting, holding and lowering the weight or the best trick I remembered this motion during yoga anatomy class was concentric was for contracting muscles and eccentric was for elongating. 

The basic breathing during exercise is inhale during the lengthening or eccentric portion of your movement or exercise, and exhale during the concentric or contraction phase. To give an example using a bicep curl as the example, inhale to start when your muscles are lengthened and exhale when you curl the weight into your shoulder and contract your bicep. During a squat form it might be a little confusing because the contraction or shortening might look like its in your body, but think about the muscle you are working, the glutes. Inhale as you lower your body down, exhale as you push your body back into standing position.

It's important to understand breath in every area of your life to bring self awareness in to your day to day actions and into your movement during exercise. 

This Post is curated in conjunction with the ladies of The Refined Collective.  Be sure and read the other articles on "Just Breathe" today by: The Refined Woman,  Jackie V.Tonyha Kae, and Tutti del Monte, Julien Garman, Nikkia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow

Also, join us over on instagram today under #therefinedcollective to see what everyone else has to say.

Joanne E

I’m a mother of two beautiful daughters and married to a man who completes me. I started my fitness journey as a way to heal my soul and launched my blog in hopes to continue to inspire and empower women to use fitness as a tool to heal depression and find their self worth. I strongly believe that each woman deserves to be in love with herself just as much as her man does. I have an obsession with reusable water bottles, I enjoy action movies, and I’m in love with burpees.