Holding your breath or shallow breathing can lead to loss of concentration, lack of attention to detail, tension in the upper back and neck, and other problems.
Here are my top ten tips to improve performance through breathing. Try one, a few, or all of the tips to feel better in your body!
1. Inhale though your nose and exhale through pursed lips (purse your lips by making just enough opening in your lips for forced exhalation to blow out through your mouth).
2. Breathe 3 dimensionally by expanding your rib cage to the side and back. (lateral and posterior breathing is used in this). Think about your ribs being an accordion and the accordion opening to the side as you inhale and closing as you exhale.
3. Activate your transversus abdominus when you exhale. This muscle acts like a corset or a belt wrapped around your middle, tightening your abdominal muscles. If you place your two fingers below your belly button and cough, you will feel the transversus abdominis. Push up or press into your fingers. That can help you know where the muscle is and how to pull that area in to activate the muscle.
4. Activate your pelvic-floor muscles before you exhale. Pull up through your pelvic-floor muscles slightly (by about 20%). The pelvic floor is the internal muscle that is used when you’re at work and have to hold going to the bathroom until your break.
5. Lie supine (lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart, legs bent with knees toward the ceiling) and try breathing using that lateral rib-cage breathing. Try to incorporate all of the above into your breathing.
6. Practice breathing when you wake up, before you go to bed, or both. It will prepare you for the day and end your day well. 🙂
7. Relax with breathing any time of day. You can meditate or even just breathe 10-20 deep breaths if you’re feeling a little stressed. This will help you relax and feel calmer.
8. Breathe before you perform. Breathing before you perform will calm your nerves and help you feel more confident. Focusing on your breathing is also a good distraction to help you use the correct side of the brain when performing, preventing you from over-thinking.
9. Breathe while you perform. If you breathe while you compete on the ice, perform on stage, play any sport, exercise or even give a presentation, you will have much more energy to put into what you’re doing. In turn, you will UP your performance by breathing!
10. Be grateful for breath! Those of us who can breathe easily, let us be grateful for the breath we have. You can breathe while inhaling to “grate” and exhaling to “ful” … or breathe to “thank” and “you.” You can also just think positive and happy thoughts while breathing deeply.
Breathing is a very important part of everyday performance. More oxygen is received by breathing through your stomach. It can even be over double the amount of oxygen you would intake usually by breathing from the chest. Just think how much better you will feel by breathing from your stomach.
Deep breathing will increase relaxation and oxygenation of the body. You may also notice improved concentration, more vivid colors, better oxygen supply to the muscles, and more energy and alertness. Use breath to expand your life!
Photo Credit: Photo by Shawn Zehnder Lea.