Have you ever thought that if you stressed less it could not only help you feel better but look better too? I’m Joey Thurman and I have some tools for you to bring your body from a state of stress aka sympathetic dominance to the Parasympathetic state of resting, digesting, and recovering.
Breathing is thought to be autonomic, or without thought. But what if we deliberately used it to not only calm ourselves down when we were stressed but also used it to recover during exercise so that we can get back after the next set with intent and more intensity.
Here’s 3 of my top breathing strategies to calm down and one to rev you up! For all of these you will be breathing in through your nose as we can get 20 percent more oxygen merely from changing the way we inhale.
- Five Fingers Breathing brings touch and breathe together in one. The simple sensation of touch can also have a calming effect. Take one hand and place it in front of you with your palm facing you. You’re going to use the pointer finger from your other hand to trace the hand that’s out. Start along the outside of the pinky finger. Slowly inhale as you trace up your finger, pause as you reach the top of the finger, and exhale as you trace down the inside of the finger. Once you reach the web in between your fingers, take another slow inhale and repeat the process for all five fingers. Another way to do this is to have someone else trace your finger as you focus on your breath. It’s an amazing way to connect with yourself and someone else.
- Physiological sighs: while you’re working out between sets take a double inhalation through your nose followed by an extended exhale. This offloads a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide at once at helps down regulate our nervous system. 1-3 sighs brings stress levels down fast. Exhales are vital as breathing can help drive heart rate variability.
- When you’re finished exercising, it’s time for some Recovery Breathing. When you work out, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To handle this increased demand, your breathing will increase from fifteen times per minute at rest to up to 40-60 times per minute while exercising. So it’s important to down regulate your system and get back to a parasympathetic state. To recover, lay on your back with your feet up on a wall or bench with about a 90 degree bend in your knees. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds, hold it at the top for a second or two, and then exhale for a count of eight seconds. What matters most here is the 1:2 ratio of your inhale to exhale so you don’t need to worry so much about sticking to four and eight second counts. Repeat this for a few minutes and your body will move back into rest and digest mode.
Breathing as an Energy Boost
Breathwork can also help boost our energy. By providing our cells more oxygen, they can better fuel our brains and our bodies. One breathing technique that is arguably better than coffee is Bellows Breath. This technique utilizes a rapid and forceful breath that stimulates the diaphragm. This will make you more alert, energize the body, and clear the mind. Do this before a workout or anytime you want to focus. To do it, sit tall with relaxed shoulders. Keep your mouth closed and inhale rapidly through your nose with quick bursts, breathing in and out as the chest elevates and drops with each breath. Start with ten second rounds, take a 15-30 second break, and then repeat. Do this several times and you’ll feel like you just had a shot of espresso!
What does getting more mobile have to do with stressing less? Much like our minds our bodies carry stress in a various of ways, so doing these 3 mobility movements in the morning or before your workouts can help relieve pain, become more limber, and get more output from the muscles you are working.
- World’s greatest stretch: this move will open up the hips, back, chest, calves, ankles, and more. There’s a reason this is called the worlds greatest! Don’t rush through this one, think about doing 3-5 of these on each side.
- Pigeon sprinter stretch: a lot of us have tight hips, let’s get them loose and happy again! This stretch work the hips, the often tight TFL, hip flexors, and piriformis muscle near the top of your hip joint. We will be working both legs as well as the back with a reach. 3-5 rounds on each side here.
- Front lunge internal rotation: after the two aforementioned mobility movements go into a front lunge with an internal rotation. This is a great way to get the legs to activate as well as open up the thoracic spine and work on the transverse plane of motion. Reps can range from 5-10 here on each side.
“TEXT NECK” Posture Fix:
Sitting all day long can lead to a host of health issues, but one of the more noticeable ones is a forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and often pain and or tightness in your shoulders that could cause issues for the rest of your body. When we constantly have poor posture the muscle that often get tight is the pec minor and the lats underneath our armpits. These will pull our shoulders forward as they get tight and lead to the muscle in our back which should help with proper posture essentially become long and weak, essentially they aren’t doing their job anymore! One group of muscle is working too hard and is tight and stressed and the other area has become lazy.
Here’s your easy fix. Now whether you have a foam roller of a massage gun the same concept applies.
- First we are going to work on the tight pec or latissimus (the order doesn’t matter) and spend 30 seconds at least to a few minutes on each area either rolling it out while pausing on the adhesions or “knots” you feel and then getting the rest of the area.
- Once this is done you need to lengthen those tight areas by doing a wall chest stretch (or corner stretch), and a latissimus stretch. These as well should be held for 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes.
Following this routine daily and especially before any workout will soon have your body stressed less, more efficient, and of course looking better!
Joey Thurman is a CES, CPT, FNS and you can find him on Instagram @joeythurmanfit and/or JoeyThurman.com for online coaching.
conference next week, followed by Twitter’s annual shareholder meeting on May 25.
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