Breathing during yoga is accomplished through diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, which means that as you inhale, you contract the diaphragm fully to allow maximum volume in the chest cavity for maximum expansion of the lungs and maximum intake of air. Rhythmic breathing does the same thing, drawing the breath into the body through controlled, diaphragmatic breathing.

You can have this breathing while running as well. You must first fit your breathing to an optimal foot strike pattern. Then the awareness of your breath decides the effort you need to put into your breathing. It is syncing your mind and body to your breath. Rhythmic breathing helps you feel your running, and that ability to feel your running allows you immediate and precise control.

Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and quieted your mind. When we use gadgets or use a timer to clock our running times we upset this delicate balance. We open up a gap where stress and tension can enter. And we create a disturbance in the flow of running that hinders our success and enjoyment.

Rebecca Pacheco swears by yoga for improving muscle structure and flexibility (Image: Dina Rudick | Boston Globe)
Fitness icon Rebecca Pacheco swears by yoga for improving flexibility and breathing (Image: Dina Rudick | Boston Globe)

The first step towards optimal breathing is to learn to breathe from your diaphragm. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and moves downward, while muscles in your chest contract to expand your rib cage, which increases the volume in your chest cavity and draws air into your lungs. Working your diaphragm to its fullest potential allows your lungs to expand to their greatest volume and fill with the largest amount of air, which of course you need for your running. The more air you inhale, the more oxygen is available to be transferred through your circulatory system to your working muscles, which activates your glycogen stores.

Many people underuse their diaphragm, relying too much on their chest muscles and therefore taking in less oxygen, which is so important to energy production. A simple way of learning diaphragmatic breathing is to follow these steps, and increase the number of times you practice them in a day.

• Lie down on your back.
• Keep your upper chest and shoulders still.
• Focus on raising your belly as you inhale.
• Lower your belly as you exhale.
• Inhale and exhale through both your nose and mouth.

When it comes to rhythmic breathing, most runners develop a 2:2 pattern of breathing. Meaning – inhale of two strikes, exhale for 2 strikes. Even if you up it to 3:3 pattern, the result remains the same. Your exhale is always on the same side, as is your inhale.

It’s best to have breathing patterns where your inhale is longer than exhale. This is because your diaphragm and other breathing muscles contract during inhalation leading to stability of the core, and these same muscles relax during exhalation which leads to instability.

Once you’re confident of this pattern, try it on a walk, then a jog and eventually a run. You’ll start to enjoy your runs more and feel less tired.

Main image: Minoru Nitta

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