Stretching is a great way to improve muscular flexibility and strength and prevent injury. But, the way you breathe while you stretch is crucial. Your breathing can have a profound effect on the efficacy of your stretching routine. Breathe improperly, and you’ll see little improvement in flexibility, but breathe properly, and you’ll grown more flexible much more quickly.
Why Breathing Is Important during Stretching
Deep breathing oxygenates your muscles and calms your nervous system to help your body relax. Deep, full, slow breathing increases blood flow to muscle tissues to help muscles recover more quickly from exercise, and to remove lactic acid and other toxins that can build up in muscle tissue and cause post workout soreness, stiffness and pain.
How Breathing Deeply Increases Blood Flow and Removes Toxins
When you inhale, your diaphragm exerts pressure on your abdominal organs. This compression squeezes blood out of your internal organs. When you exhale, the diaphragmatic pressue is relieved and fresh blood rushes back into the tissues of your internal organs. The contraction and expansion of your diaphragm helps promote blood circulation to and from the organs.
The contraction and expansion of the diaphragm also helps pump toxins and lactic acid from the muscles of the torso. Increased blood flow to these muscles makes them more flexible.
When you breathe deeply, your body receives more oxygen than it does when you breath shallowly and rapidly. Taking in higher levels of oxygen means that more oxygen will reach your blood, and, through your blood, your muscles. Higher levels of blood and oxygen in your muscles make the muscles more flexible; increased blood flow washes your muscle tissues clean of lactic acid and other toxins.
How to Breathe Properly while Stretching
Take slow, deep, full breaths while stretching. The deeper and slower your breath, the more effective the stretch. Controlling your breath can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your flexibility routine.
While stretching, inhale through the nose, not the mouth. Inhaling through the nose helps to remove dust and other impurities from the air, and it also ensures that the air will be at the ideal temperature and humidity level when it reaches your lungs. Your lungs can’t remove as much oxygen from air that you inhale through your mouth, because it hasn’t had a chance to reach appropriate temperature and humidity levels.
Your breath should travel in to your abdomen, expanding your lower belly first, and then moving up into your diaphragm, chest and collarbones. Remember to breathe slowly and deliberately, but refrain from forcing the breath in or out. As time passes, you’ll be able to breathe more deeply more easily, but forcing deeper breaths will only have the undesirable effect of making you more, rather than less, tense.
Exhale through the mouth. Your exhale should take mroe time to complete than the inhale; longer exhales help the body to relax more completely. Practice counting to four during your inhale, and counting to six during your exhale.