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Breathe Like an Athlete

Written by Brooke Hillebrand, Yoga in the Schools Instructor

Breathe. Believe. Relax. Receive.

The leaves are crunching beneath our feet, heavier coats are getting pulled from closets, and our nasal passages breathe in the crisp, cold air. To this former runner, this means only one thing: State Cross Country! Running Cross Country became one of the best decisions of my life. It led me to my closest friends and it’s where I learned my first breath technique: rhythmic breathing. I would match my inhales and exhales to equal length.

I can remember counting four steps as my feet hit the pavement, breathing in, and another four steps as I exhaled. I did this primarily through my mouth, as you can imagine, with the exertion of my body, but did you know that our bodies were designed to breathe through our nasal passages? We don’t often think about our breath and have learned to breathe out of our mouths. Because of this, nasal breathing takes some attention.

Breathing is an unconscious daily effort. If you have never sat down and thought about how you breathe, take a moment to do so now.

Breathe in and out just through your mouth. How’s it feel?

Now, inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose. How does this feel?

You wanna know how it makes me feel? I wanna return to Cross County and utilize nasal breathing! I’d probably have been a much better runner! (Oh! Glory days!)

The Benefits of Nasal Breathing

- improves the quality of air

- boosts focus

- lowers anxiety and depression

- leads to better oral health to name a few!

Here are two breath practices to try before your classroom is full of students or the waiting room is full of patients!

Breath Practices

  • Rhythmic Nostril Breathing:

    • Breath in through your nose for four counts. Exhale through your nose for four counts.

    • Repeat. Try lengthening your count. See what counts suits you today.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

While in sukhasana (criss cross yogi sauce), spine long, lift your right peace fingers to your third eye chakra. Then using your pinky finger close off the left nostril. Breath in through your right nostril. At the top of the inhale use your thumb to close the right nostril off. Exhale left nostril. Inhale left nostril. At the top of the inhale, pinky closes the left nostril. Exhale right nostril. Inhale the right nostril. And repeat, alternating each nostril.

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