Stretching can sometimes become a chore at the end of a workout or a quick afterthought after your "real" workout is finished. Many women rush through their stretching routine instead of spending the right amount of time elongating those muscles. Holding stretches while breathing deeply helps you get the most out of your stretching routine. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proper breathing while stretching increases circulation, relaxes the body and helps get rid of lactic acid buildup.
The Role of Breathing
There's more to breathing than meets the eye. Each time you pull air into your lungs, your diaphragm contracts, pressing down on your internal organs and blood vessels. As you exhale, new blood flows through your entire system. The new blood flow helps improve the elasticity of your muscles. Fitness magazine recommends holding stretches for 30 seconds, stating that holding a stretch for less than 20 seconds won't make a difference in muscle elasticity.
How to Breathe
Proper breathing ensures that you will get the most out of each stretch. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommends inhaling slowly through your nose. Allow your entire abdomen and chest cavity to fill completely. For inspiration, imagine a balloon inside of your abdomen that is slowly inflating. Exhale slowly through your mouth as you push deeper into the stretch. Control each inhale and exhale by pulling the air through the back of your throat, causing a "hmmmm" sound.
Breathing helps your mind and body relax. Yoga experts refer to breathing practice as pranayama, a Sanskrit word meaning "energy control." Through proper breathing and concentration, you can control the energy flow in your body, resulting in clarity and energy after a vigorous workout. Instead of taking breathing for granted, you can use it to enhance your health, your attitude and your overall sense of well-being. Begin by simply becoming aware of your breathing. Is it shallow? Sporadic? Quick? Then make a conscious effort to deepen your breath and concentrate on each muscle as you stretch it.
Combining Stretching and Breathing
Although it might feel odd or laborious at first, breathing and stretching will become natural with practice. Before stretching, practice focusing on your breath by sitting or lying in a comfortable position. Place your hands on your abdomen, feeling it rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. After a minute or two of just breathing, get into position for your first stretch. Inhale as you prepare to stretch, then exhale as you bend into the stretch. Continue to steadily inhale and exhale as you hold the stretch. Inhale as you move to the next stretch, exhaling again as you push deeper into it.
Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.