Proper breathing is one of the easiest ways to improve overall health and enhance recovery, however it is not something we put much thought into. When done correctly breathing blends our physiology, emotions, and thoughts to activate our recovery.
Three steps to remember for proper breathing.
Recovery breathing starts in the abdomen. Most people are chest breathers especially under stress. Learning to breathe with the diaphragm enhances efficiency and initiates recovery.
Sit in a comfortable position with one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Just be aware of how you are breathing. Specifically what hand is moving more. If your top hand is moving more focus on filling your abdomen with air as if you were filling a balloon. It takes time and practice.
Begin using a 4 in 4 out cadence. Breathing in through the nostrils and out through the mouth. As your progress you can increase the time. You will notice that when you are stressed you respiration rate is quicker, this is the case for physical, emotional, or cognitive stress. In those situations concentrate on slowly extending the cadence.
Eliciting positive emotions has a big impact on our recovery. Our emotions play a crucial role in both how we think and how our bodies are, so being able to remember or imagine something positive as you breathe is a bonus. This is especially true for feelings of gratitude.
A few years ago I was helping a unit perform some range PT and we were utilizing the biofeedback equipment some of you have tried in the gym. It took most Soldiers a while to recover, but one went "green" right away. This was after about 25 burpees, a shuttle run, and 50 jumping jacks. When I asked him what he did he said that he thought about playing with his daughter at the beach.
He continued saying that he had been deployed multiple times and been in some difficult situations and that he always went to that image of he and his daughter playing. It was practiced and implemented under stress, and when we tested him his default habit kicked in.
Your homework try breathing for 2 minutes in a comfortable spot. When your done just take note of how you feel.