Breathe yourself fit – generate energy through conscious breathing

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. We take this process so much for granted that we rarely even think about it. Breathing takes place unconsciously, but did you know that conscious breathing techniques are fantastic for both your body and mind?

Training conscious breathing techniques can have a positive impact on many aspects of your life, and helps improve your connection to yourself. Breathing can be trained through exercises that help build awareness.

Recently the sports world has utilised and harnessed the power of conscious breathing. Breathwork can help an athlete prepare for an upcoming workout, increase performance, improve concentration, gain more energy, fight fatigue and switch off and wind down after sports.

Together with our breathing technique expert Tobias Scheel, we’ll show you why it’s so important to pay attention to your breathing, which breathing techniques you can integrate into your everyday life and how you can make amazing changes with a few small but extremely effective exercises.

Tobias is the owner of the Berlin yoga school Saccidananda Yoga. He teaches yoga and meditation and trains yoga teachers. Breathwork is a big part of his practice, which is called pranayama in the yoga world.

Full Power

“Through breathing you can positively influence your body, your energy and your mental state,” Tobias says. “Conscious breathing seeks to connect these three levels for optimal impact.” Through calming breathing exercises, such as Nadi Shodana (see below for instructions), you can relax your body, channel uncoordinated energy and focus your mind.

With an activating breathing exercise like Surya Bheda, you can gently energize these three levels to get your energy flowing again. When you connect all three levels through conscious breathing, you can unlock your full potential and hit your maximum performance during workouts.

Kick-off the day

Especially during times of lockdown, with all the restrictions in daily life, we often feel a bit listless when we get up, and could do with an extra dose of energy and motivation.

Kapalabhati and Surya Bheda are ideal for this, according to our expert Tobias. “With these breathing exercises, you combat your morning tiredness, kickstart your body and mind and prepare it for a subsequent workout,” he explains.

Kapalabhati (Energy and Focus)

How it works:

  1. Get into a comfortable upright sitting position of your choice, close your eyes, place your hands on your knees and relax.
  2. Then exhale 50 times through both nostrils simultaneously, forcefully and quickly, contracting the middle part of your abdominals, i.e. pulling it towards your spine. The inhalation is completely passive and happens automatically at the moment when you relax your abdominal muscles so air can enter your lungs again. Keep your chest as still as possible.
  3. After the last exhalation, slowly inhale deeply through your nose and quickly exhale through your mouth.
  4. Hold the exhaled state for as long as possible, relax and only then inhale slowly through the nose again.
  5. Then concentrate for a few seconds on the space in front of your third eye, located between your eyebrows.
  6. Practice three rounds of 50 exhalations each.

Surya Bheda (Energy and Activation)

How it works:

  1. Get into a comfortable upright sitting position of your choice, close your eyes, place your hands on your knees and relax.
  2. Close the left nostril with the right ring finger and inhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril. 
  3. After inhaling, hold your breath for as long as you inhaled (for example, 4 seconds) and use your ring finger and thumb to close both nostrils. Then exhale through the left nostril for the same amount of time, holding the right nostril closed with your thumb.
  4. Repeat this sequence 10 times, gradually building up the length of the inhale, hold and exhale. Start with a 1:1:1 ratio at first, and later you can increase it to 1:2:2 all the way to 1:3:2 and 1:4:2.

Goodbye distractions!

It can be tough to concentrate during home office, and often our head is buzzing with news and other external stress. It can be difficult to switch off in the evenings. Tobias says “The following breathing technique will give you new inspiration again, calm you down and help you focus on important things.”

Nadi Shodana (calming, balancing)

How it works:

  1. Get into a comfortable upright sitting position of your choice, close your eyes, place your hands on your knees and relax.
  2. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril.
  3. After inhaling, hold your breath as long as you inhaled and then close both nostrils with your ring finger and thumb.
  4. Then exhale through the right nostril for as long as you inhaled, holding the left nostril closed with the ring finger. 
  5. Then inhale again on the right for the same length of time, hold, and exhale again on the left. This is one round: in on the left, hold, out on the right, in on the right, hold, out on the left.
  6. Repeat this sequence 10 times. Practice with a 1:1:1 ratio at first, and later you can also increase this technique to 1:2:2 all the way up to 1:3:2 and 1:4:2.

Mindset Shift

“Conscious breathing not only helps you connect with yourself, but also lets you see everything from a different perspective,” Tobias says. “Through calming breathing exercises, you focus your mind so it’s no longer so preoccupied with the day’s events, but becomes calmer overall.”

This directs your thoughts back to the really important things that often seem self-evident. This includes health, time for yourself, and the opportunity to be active with yoga or other sports. Becoming aware of this fills you with gratitude and makes the problems of everyday life no longer seem so powerful and urgent. So with this new perspective, you’ll realign your thoughts and create more space for the positive things in life.

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