You’ve perfected your alignment, calibrated your intervals and mastered the Reformer, but one seemingly simple skill could be keeping you from taking your routine to the next level: knowing how to breathe. The most basic life force can have a major impact on the effectiveness of your workout.
“Once you become aware of your breath, it becomes an incredible tool to generate energy,” says national group fitness creative manager Lashaun Dale, “and you can use it to mobilize the body’s ability to create and manage your energy: it can speed up your heart rate and metabolism and manipulate the function of your nervous system.” And as much as it can help rev you up, it also has the power to slow you down. “You can use the phases of your breath to manipulate your physiology, impacting your thoughts, emotions, hormone levels and neuromuscular pathways.”
In other words, conscious breath isn’t just for yogis. Here, experts from each fitness discipline show you how to breathe fresh air into your practice:
It’s not just about exhaling on the exertion with strength-training anymore (although that method of training still holds true). The relatively new wave of thinking focuses on trunk stabilization and intrathoracic pressure: filling your entire midsection with air when you inhale and keeping some of that air when you exhale with control. By maintaining the pressure in your expanded belly, you provide stability to your entire core while your arms and legs do the heavy lifting. “The most exciting part is that you’re activating your abs and core muscles in ways you haven’t in past, so you might tire sooner than ten minutes at first,” says national director of group fitness and Pilates Carol Espel. In other words, you’re maximizing the execution of any exercise, building your core muscles and burning more calories with every strength-training move you make.