Whether you’re an adventure junkie or wish to focus on better living, learning breathing techniques are crucial for a healthy and long life.
Especially in today’s time when pollution and climate change have effects on us, without us even noticing, breathing techniques through outdoor activities and yoga should be on everyone’s list. Be it for the sake of acing an adventure sport or dealing with stress and anxiety, certain breathing techniques and postures can make your life better. And it all comes down to simple, routine checks like inhaling and exhaling via various methods.
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Breathing techniques you should know for healthy living
Slow diaphragmatic breathing for scuba diving
Scuba diving breathing techniques are an indispensable part of the water sport as they will help make the most of the activity. The first thing you need to remember is to not hold your breath in when you’re underwater. We need to eliminate the carbon dioxide particles at the same rate as they are produced.
In the slow diaphragmatic breathing technique, the goal is to bring the air to the most efficient part of our lungs. So, you need to use your diaphragm to bring the air into the lower third of the lungs. This is because this part of the lung produces a greater exchange of gases.
Normally, we use our chest muscles to breathe, which is referred to as shallow breathing. But slow diaphragmatic breathing is a deep breathing technique where you will not need to inhale a large amount of air to provide oxygen to your cells. This type of breathing helps the body lower the heartbeat and stimulates relaxation, thus leading to minimum production of carbon dioxide.
Steps to know:
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
- Inhale slowly in a way that the hand you have on the abdomen rises, while counting to two. Meanwhile, make sure the hand on the chest does not move.
- Count to four and exhale and feel your abdomen sink.
Abdominal breathing for hiking and trekking at higher altitudes
Abdominal breathing is a technique used by yogis for centuries. You need to learn, practice and master this technique if you are a trekker or at least are planning to get started.
Also known as belly breathing, abdominal breathing is a deep breathing technique that helps build up your diaphragm and stabilise your blood oxygen levels. When you are at a higher altitude, your blood oxygen saturation levels will drop because of the low oxygen content in the air. With this breathing technique, your body will be able to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen more efficiently, and thus your oxygen levels will shoot back up.
Steps to know:
- Lie down on your back.
- Put one hand on your chest, and the other one on your belly.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose while keeping your chest intact.
- Breathe out through your mouth and feel your tummy get back to its normal position.
Mindful breathing for skydiving
Your first skydiving experience will take your breath away! But not quite literally. A lot of people believe in the myth that you can’t breathe when you’re skydiving. On the contrary, when you are hitting the earth at that speed, you will have plenty of oxygen to breathe in. The key is, however, to breathe right.
When you’re skydiving, it’s normal to feel a little lightheaded and dizzy as the air up there is about 40% less rich in oxygen than the air on the ground. The key is to breathe 40% deeper to make up for the lack of oxygen. That is what is called mindful breathing.
There’s no particular method to this breathing method, making it one of the easiest breathing techniques. You just need to be more attentive and put in more thought while breathing, which will get you into an almost meditative state. One hack you can follow is to take a deep breath just before exiting the place and let out a whooshing exhale as soon as you dive.
Box breathing for better sleep and improved heart health
Box breathing or square breathing is one of those breathing techniques that packs in a whole lot of benefits, such as better sleep and better heart health, mental clarity, and improved cognitive function.
This breathing technique is used by many people in a variety of settings, ranging from doctors’ and therapists’ offices to yoga studios and meditation centres. It is a four-step process that you need to repeat to get better and reap the maximum benefits of this breathing technique.
Steps to know:
- Inhale through your nose and count to four, making sure your lungs are full.
- Hold in the air and count till four.
- Exhale through your mouth, again to a count of four, making sure all the air is out.
- Hold the lungs in that empty state till a count of four.
4-7-8 breathing to manage anxiety and stress
Anxiety and stress have become a way of life these days, and you must have read several articles on how to deal with them. But the answer lies in basic breathing. The 4-7-8 breathing technique was developed by an internationally renowned doctor and integrative medicine pioneer, Dr Andrew Weil.
This breathing technique fortifies the connection between mind and body, where your parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged because of your slow and focused breathing. This intensifies your body, and your mind becomes free of all worries because it is busy focusing on breathing. This breathing exercise can be done anywhere and at any time.
Steps to know:
- Breathe in to the count of four.
- Hold your breath to the count of 7.
- Exhale to the count of 8.
Alternate nostril breathing for emotional control
This breathing technique physiologically calms the sympathetic nervous system, and mentally, it refocuses all the anxious thoughts into your body and breath, thus giving you emotional control.
Alternate nostril breathing is a traditional yogic breathing technique, where you close one nostril and direct your breath to one side of the body. This technique has been proven to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular autonomic regulation, which in turn leads to positive effects on cardiovascular diseases and anxiety.
This breathing technique also balances and aligns the two hemispheres of the brain and the sides of the body through breathing, thus connecting the body, mind and breath.