Breathe and relax for better performance

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Ava Kyte

We live by the work hard, play hard approach, especially around the Tri-State area. We work long hours and love participating in intense activities and workouts. How can we make sure our lives and how we live will work for us not against us? After all, how much more stress and demand can we put on ourselves? It’s important to not only balance our lives but our workouts, too.

Using relaxation and breathing techniques is becoming more important than ever before. We can’t be go, go, go all the time; our bodies need to rest, recover, and restore.

First, let’s look at what happens to the body when we’re under constant stress:

  • It causes muscle tension that can also trigger tension headaches, migraines, chronic muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and head.
  • We take shallow, short breaths, which creates even more tension in the body.
  • As the fight or flight response kicks in, long-term, ongoing stress increases the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
  • The adrenal glands and liver work much harder, and we can develop anxiety, panic disorders, insulin resistance, or diabetes.
  • We also tend to eat more or drink more alcohol, which can eventually cause acid reflux and stomach ulcers. Other signs of stress are diarrhea or constipation.
  • It affects how we view the world. Under a lot of pressure, we become more protective over what we know and less accepting to change. Life and growth come with change. Fear makes growing and improving much harder, if not impossible.
  • And finally, it’s hard to lose weight. When we lower our stress levels, weight loss becomes much easier, because the body’s reaction to fight or flight is to store, preserve, and protect. Stress management, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques are an important part of my weight loss programs.

A lot of times we’re so used to the amount of stress we live with we’re not even aware of it. If you have a calendar full of events and not a lot of downtime to recharge, you might benefit from some breathing and relaxation practices.

Now, let’s see how breathing and relaxation can help you to re-center your body and lower your stress.

When we’re stressed, we take shallow breaths, breathing into the upper chest area, which reduces the oxygen levels and puts the body in an alarm mode. We use the diaphragm muscle when we breathe correctly, filling the belly with air. As we inhale, the diaphragm moves downward, increases the space in the chest cavity, giving space for the lungs to expand. As we exhale, the muscle goes back to its dome shape and pushes the air up and out of the lungs. It not only helps us to take in more oxygen but also relaxes the nervous system.

Stress and emotions can change the way we breathe, but it’s possible to change our emotional and mental state with the help of our correct breathing. It’s amazing how much more control we have over how we feel than we think.

As we calm our nervous systems, our bodies and minds become more relaxed, too. When we’re relaxed, we see the world from a more positive perspective; it’s easier to resolve problems and accept and meet challenges. And we have more joy and peace in our lives.

Learning to breathe properly and giving your body the time to relax and let go will greatly benefit your fitness performance, weight loss goals, quality of your life, and general wellbeing.