Using Your Breath
Controlling your breathing enables you to control other functions of your body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. Additionally, conscious deep breathing generates more oxygen for the body and keeps vital lung capacity from decreasing. This can be helpful for cardiovascular activity because it allows more oxygen into the lungs with each breath.
Learning how to breathe can also enhance the mind-body connection. If you are able to connect to your breath you will be able to connect to your higher self. You become more aware of the patterns in your body, both mentally and physically. Next time you are sitting at your desk, stop, take a few deep breaths, and notice what happens to your posture and how you feel afterward. You may notice you sit up taller and feel rejuvenated.
Taking the time to breathe deeply helps to improve your posture and can keep your body from becoming tight and tense. When the body becomes tight and tense, it is very hard to get muscles to lengthen and become more flexible. This is one of the reasons why it is very important to breathe deeply when you are practicing your stretch routine. Through your breath you can stimulate a part of the nervous system that activates the relaxation response. Once you are able to relax you will sleep better, recover from exercise faster, get better from illness faster, and deal with the stresses of life more efficiently.
The best way to use your breath when you are working on a stretch is to inhale as you come up out of the stretch just slightly, then exhale as you move back into the stretch, maybe a little bit further on each sequential breath. Remember: Do not force any stretch. If you use your breath appropriately it will help you relax more into the stretch. Forcing a stretch will make the muscle you are trying to stretch contract and will limit your range of motion. Another way to think of proper breathing is as you inhale you lengthen, as you exhale you deepen the stretch.