By Sam Foster
For years I practiced playing the piano. Piano practice everyday. As I got a bit older and got into organized sports, there were lots of practices to be had. Baseball practice. Basketball practice. Cross country practice.
Lately, I’ve been trying to focus more on “practicing what I preach”. That takes a lot of practice, too.
There are probably a lot of things you practice, too. Maybe you practice drawing or painting or needlework. Whatever.
But you probably don’t give much consideration to breathing practice. That’s right, you can practice breathing.
It’s weird to think that we actually can benefit from practicing a task that we’ve literally done our entire lives and comes as naturally and involuntarily as breathing.
While it’s true that breathing is something that you don’t have to think about, there are exercises to increase your lung capacity which will help you not run out of breath during physical activities.
There have even been studies recently published in an attempt to determine whether or not breathing exercises help relieve asthma. While none of these studies are entirely conclusive, they indicated that they can make a difference in some patients. The degree to which they are relieved varies but even if you don’t see a major change in your asthma, it never hurts to strengthen your lungs.
Here are a handful of breathing exercises that can be used to improve the vivacity of the lungs, for both people who suffer from asthma and those who don’t. (Keep in mind that these exercises are by no means meant to replace prescriptions or doctors’ advice.)
Breath from your diaphragm
The concept of diapghragm breathing suggests that truly deep breaths originate in the muscles below the lung, and that when you take a full, deep breath inward, your entire abdomen (rather than your chest) will rise, and the lungs will become completely filled with air, as opposed to merely the top of your lungs as is often the case with short, shallow breaths.
You can practice disaphragm breathing by lying down and placing your hand over your stomach, below your sternum. Exhale completely and then inhale for a solid count of five, watching as your hand rises to full elevation. Now exhale the same way, counting down from five, until your abdomen and your hand are sunk to the lowest point. Repeat.
- Studies show that blowing up baloons is a good way to stretch out your lungs. Keep your cheeks in so they don’t become painful. Try to do it without stretching the balloon beforehand for some extra resistance.
- Tape a tissue to the end of your nose and try to keep it in the air as long as possible. You might feel a bit silly but who cares, right? If you do this on a regular basis, you will notice that you will begin to be able to keep the tissue in the air for longer periods of time!
- Hold a piece of paper up on the wall by blowing on it. Time yourself to see how long you can keep it up for. You’ll notice you improve dramatically with practice!
Practice Holding Your Breath
Simply Take in big gulps of air and see how long you can hold it in for. Holding air in helps work the lung muscles. Don’t go to the point where you feel like you are going to pass out or your face turns purple. A little bit of discomfort is ok but if you are in pain go ahead and breathe again.
Head to the Gym, the Breathing Gym!
You might be familiar with this if you play a woodwind or brass instrument — there is an entire set of breathing techniques that these musicians use to increase lung capacity. Created by tuba virtuosos Sam Pilafian and Patrick Sheridan, breathing gyms are a series of exercises aimed to increase your control over air as well as your lung capacity.