We don’t give much thought to our breathing because it’s an autonomic process that just occurs naturally. But breathing can play a vital role in our productivity, health, staying centered and injury prevention for busy deskbound professionals.
Most of the us take shallow breaths and practice chest breathing. Chest breathing can be a hard habit to kick since most of us spend many hours hunched over our computers, shortening the chest muscles, inhibiting deep breathing. A good way to switch to deep belly breathing is to do breathing exercises for a few minutes a day.
Just like we strength train our hamstrings and glutes we can train our diaphragm and intercostal muscles for deeper breathing.
The diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen, is the most important muscle used for inhalation. The intercostal muscles help move the rib cage and assist in breathing.
Here are a few breathing exercises that can improve our mental health, physical health, and productivity.
Belly breathing activates your diaphragm. You can practice this exercise in a seated position or lying down on your back. Lying down on the floor is a better option because gravity isn’t working against your body.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
- Inhale as deeply as you can. Imagine filling up your belly like a balloon.
- Deflate the balloon, emptying all the air from your stomach.
- Take 8–10 breaths for a pre-run warm-up or any time of the day.
Second breathing exercise is combination breathing with pursed lips. Combination breathing makes breathing slower and intentional. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Come into a seated position or lay down on the floor.
- Inhale through your nose for two seconds.
- Purse your lips like you’re blowing a candle and exhale for 4–6 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise 8–10 times.
This breathing exercise is my favorite because you can do it while running. Try to practice a 3:2 breathing rhythm. Inhale for 3 strides and exhale for 2. Every time you exhale you will land on different foot. This breathing pattern reduces the chances of injury and muscle imbalance. It’s a great technique for increasing lung capacity.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Take 3 steps on inhale and 2 steps on exhale.
- Repeat for 10 breath cycles and repeat as you can.
- Try to increase the number of breath cycles in each round.