Breathing may seem like the easiest element of exercise to remember; after all it’s something we do without even thinking about most of the time! However, whether you’re running, doing yoga or partaking in high intensity team sports you can find yourself panting and heaving got breath. This is because aware breathing and exercise are an absolutely crucial combination.

Everett Murphy M.D., a pulmonologist from Olathe Medical Center in Olathe, Kansas says: “exercise improves the conditioning of the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, and the intercostal muscles, which lie between the ribs and enable you to inhale and exhale. When you take a breath, 80 percent of the work is done by the diaphragm. If you strengthen your diaphragm, you may improve your endurance and be less likely to become fatigued.”

However, there are different techniques you should use for different forms of exercise. For example, there’s the nose vs. mouth debate. Alison McConnell, author of Breathe Strong, Perform Better, suggests that during exercise is the only time it is socially acceptable to be a mouth-breather as it’s the path of ‘least resistance’.

That said, many other experts have found that nose breathing has it’s own benefits! According to Roy Sugarman Ph.D, director of applied neuroscience for Athletes Performance suggests that breathing through your nose increases your CO2 intake causing a calming affect. The nose method also reduces the amount of allergens you breathe in, which is always useful for my fellow hay fever sufferers.

Yoga

Perhaps the exercise most associated with breathing techniques, yoga has numerous different breathing forms you can apply in order to get the most out of your workout.

When participating in more relaxed yoga Sama Vritti, ‘equal breathing’, is recommended and entails equalizing the time spent inhaling and exhaling. This method is supposed to calm your nervous system and lower your blood pressure, hence reducing stress, which is one of the main benefits of yoga!

If you’re partaking in rigorous ashtanga, vinyasa or power yoga then you may want to apply Ujjayi, also known as ‘victorious breathing’. This just requires you to breath in-and-out of your nose with a constriction in your throat. Whatever you do, DO NOT hold your breath during yoga as this will just make you stressed and uncomfortable.

Running

Running requires stamina, mode, strategy and aware breathing!

Most runners suggest you use the 2:2 rhythm, that is: inhaling for two steps and exhaling for two steps. Using this method you avoid putting the unnecessary pressure on your diaphragm and organs that comes with running.

You should also take deep breaths! David Ross, M.D., a pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center, suggests that: “when you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in more oxygen to feed your muscles. When I’m running, I concentrate on taking slow and deep breaths to strengthen my diaphragm.”

High Intensity Team Sports

High intensity team sports can literally knock the breath out of you! Hockey, rugby, even it’s wimpy USA cousin American Football (yeah I went there): there’s a pretty large chance of you being tackled, kicked, and literally having the wind knocked out of you.

Clay Nicks, PhD., of Columbus State University in Georgia says: “many intermittent (or team sports) require continuous repeated bouts of high intensity exercise. As a result, breathing is increased and athletes may experience dyspnea, an uncomfortable awareness of breathing. Severe or prolonged dyspnea can potentially have a negative impact on sports performance.”

Dr Nick suggests you try respiratory muscle training (RMT), which requires you to conduct series of breathing exercises to improve endurance and strength of your respiratory muscles. “Scientific studies have indicated that respiratory muscle training may benefit athletes participating in intermittent sports,” he says. “Training the respiratory muscles may help delay respiratory muscle fatigue or reduce sensations of breathlessness.”

You can also use breathing to protect your body during impact sports. Studies suggest that you take a large breath into your diaphragm before impact when possible, and brace your core: this will protect spine.