The power of breath

10. December 2019


Breath means life. It begins with the first breath after your birth and ends with the last. Breathing is especially important for athletes.

No matter when, how and where: breath is omnipresent! It is the internal indicator of physical and mental processes and is usually highly sensitive to external circumstances. It reflects our overall well-being and is a powerful source for inner healing and outer drive.

Breathing is also a key factor for athletes. Breathing is seen as an important indicator of the athletic state of fitness. The better trained the muscle cells of an endurance athlete, the more oxygen they can extract from the passing blood flow.

As an athlete, you can – and should – regularly practice conscious breathing on a “small-scale”. The more often the autonomic nervous system is confronted with conscious breathing, the prompter it can respond to it. It’s like training: those who do targeted training can, if necessary – for instance in a competition – pull out all the stops when it comes to endurance and strength.

Two exercises for abdominal and alternate nostril breathing

Even though we take inhaling and exhaling for granted, we have not yet fully exploited the capacity and potential of this biological miracle system. Conscious breathing not only promotes awareness of the body, but also concentration. You should therefore take some time now and again to consciously focus on the breathing process without letting your mind wander. All it needs is a little leisure and time. In addition to a comfortable seat with a straight back and crossed legs, either on a chair or a cushion on the floor. Both exercises listed below require that you: 

  • Give yourself at least ten to fifteen minutes of time.
  • Principally breathe in AND out through your nose.
  • Practice in a quiet environment - closing your eyes helps to aid concentration.

1: Abdominal breathing with emphasis on exhalation

  • Inhale into the abdominal region (diaphragm moves down towards the abdomen).
  • Inhale for a count of 4.
  • Exhale from the abdominal region (diaphragm rises) for a count of 8. The exhalation can be increased to a count of 12. The ideal ratio is 1:2, and 1:3 later on.
  • Don’t control your breath but observe it.
  • «Decelerated breathing» means reducing (halving) the number of breaths per minute. Try it out by inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds.

2: Alternate nostril breathing with emphasis on exhalation

  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb by gently pressing on the right wall of the nose.
  • Inhale
  • Close your left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand, open the right nostril.
  • Exhale
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close it, exhale through the left = 1 round
  • Place the emphasis on exhaling. The ideal ratio of inhaling to exhaling is 1:3