You’ve been breathing since birth. So naturally you’re a pro at it, right? Not necessarily, at least when it comes to exercise. A poor breathing technique could be the difference between setting a personal record and barely making it across the finish line.
“You can train aerobically until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not breathing efficiently, your training will suffer for it,” says Gwen Lawrence, a NYC-based yoga coach for pro teams such as the Giants, Knicks and Yankees. “Better oxygen flow to the body decreases anxiety, reduces exercise-induced asthma and improves overall athletic performance,” she adds.
Get your fill of O with these three breathing exercises, which Lawrence recommends practicing before or during a game (on the sideline, of course).
Standing or sitting cross-legged on the floor, bring your arms up and out to create 90-degree angles. Your shoulders should be the same height as your elbows, and your fingers should be reaching skyward. Twist from the hips to the left and
right. Let your head move with your upper body. If you get dizzy easily, pick a point in the room and focus on it. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute, syncing your breath naturally to a comfortable rhythm. Over time, aim to work your way up to doing this exercise for two to three minutes to boost your spine rotation and open the muscles between your ribs.
Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart with knees slightly bent and in line with your big toes. Fold over at the hips. Connect your upper body to your thighs without letting your knees collapse inward. Once you feel stable, grab each elbow with the opposite hand and hang for a minute. Although it’ll be tempting to close your eyes, don’t! You’ll lose your balance. It’s OK, however, to sway back and forth or bend and straighten your knees. This move will help lengthen your hamstrings, which, in turn, will improve your posture and thus improve your breathing.
Extended Arm Triangle
Start with your feet about four feet apart. Turn your right toes out 90 degrees. Line your right heel up with the arch of your left foot. Lift straight arms to shoulder height, parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Take a deep breath and drop your shoulders. Extend your torso to the right directly over the right leg (bend from the hip, not waist). Reach your right hand to the floor (or place it on top of a soccer ball or basketball if you can’t go all the way down). Extend your left arm up in line with your right arm, then lower it to your left ear. To go deeper, turn your head to your left arm. Hold, then repeat on the other side.