Breathing Exercises - Reduce stress, improve concentration

An effective weight training regimen can be significantly enhanced by including regular stretching as part of the routine and by maintaining a proper focus on breathing. Like stretching, breathing is often overlooked as a skill that, when practiced regularly, will enhance a workout routine.

Regular focus on your breathing, even when you're not working out, can help restore energy, reduce stress, improve concentration, and otherwise supply a more robust energy source for the body.

The most important principle to remember is that one should never hold one's breath during exercise. Not only does this increase stress, but it deprives the body of energy necessary to complete the training. The most vital principle to observe is that breathing should be rhythmic and controlled. Many people who exercise find themselves out of breath ("hyperventilating") because they have allowed their breathing to be uncontrolled. It is possible, however, to focus your attention on your breathing in a way that avoids being out of breath, even during intense exercise.

In the Western world, we tend to breathe from our chest, which is typically very shallow. The result is that our bodies receive much less energy flow. Living from the chest also occurs and has a tendency to promote stress. Asian cultures, especially the Chinese, have typically focused on breathing from the lower abdomen, specifically, an area 1 1/2 inches below the navel. Try this the next time you have a few moments. A better description is as follows:

"Inhale the way that the area just below your navel contracts as you take the air. Breathing out such that the same area expands as you exhale. Do this slowly and rhythmically until you can consistently inhale while your abdomen presses in, and exhale as your abdomen expands."

The Chinese have focused significant effort on studying breathing as it relates to health and martial arts. A systematic approach to breathing has emerged and has become a significant focus of many martial arts.

Breathing can also be the basis of a meditation session to start and/or end the day. When done for this purpose, the primary goal is stress reduction and conditioning the body to control the process of breathing.

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