Whether you practice martial arts, run marathons, do rock climbing, play soccer, go mountain biking or any other strenuous physical activity, your endurance and power really come down to one common denominator: Your Breath.
How you breathe, its depth, smoothness and rapidity can make the world of difference when you are playing, training or exercising. This is an exhaustive topic, but I wanted to touch upon some basics here in this post when it comes to your breathing.
To start, if you observe children and especially babies and how they breathe you can see they breathe naturally and fully. They take deep belly breaths. The abdomen and lower diaphragm expands on the inhale, filling up the lungs completely before the exhale.
As we grow older, we tend to breathe shallower and shallower unfortunately. In many cases people breathe in without filling the bottom portion or lower lobes. This can ultimately lead to many different problems, but a major benefit of deep belly breathing is that more oxygen is brought into the body which ultimately helps to cleanse out toxins (carbon dioxide) from the body any stagnant air in the lungs. It also helps to oxygenate the blood more which results also in a higher level of performance when one is active.
In other words, when you have no wind, you are dead tired and weak. A good way to minimize this, or delay it when training or in activity is to train the breath accordingly. Through regular training our cardiovascular system and conditioning gradually become stronger.
We can augment this dramatically through different breathing techniques and breathing exercises (also known as chi gong, chi kung, chi gung, qi gong etc). This type of internal training can be very powerful and has numerous health benefits, not to mention of course increasing one’s endurance and power.
Two Chi Breathing Techniques You Can Use Anytime, Anywhere
I’m going to mention two other breathing techniques (beside learning to start to breathing deep – long inhale and long exhale belly breathing that I mentioned above) in this post that you can start incorporating on a daily basis to help train and strengthen you lung capacity and ultimately your endurance and power.
The great part is you can do these anywhere, anytime (when you’re not talking to someone or in the middle of an important meeting that is like driving your car, taking a walk, sitting on a park bench, etc.
Okay so the first technique, also known as yang chi breathing goes like this: You take a short inhale (still deep breathing) and then a long exhale through your mouth. Your inhale should only last one to two seconds, and the exhale should last a least five to ten seconds. As you get better at doing the breathing exercises, your exhale breath will last longer (15 – 30 seconds and even longer, you will gradually get better control).
I’ve gotten my exhale to last well over a minute just as an example. To make sure you are doing it right you want to make a low audible noise (sub-vocal) sound while exhaling. You should make a ‘hahhhhh’ type sound. If you put your hand in front of your mouth, you should feel your exhale/air only but slightly, just a little bit. If the exhale is too strong you are exhaling too quick and should slow down.
The second technique is yin chi breathing. This is basically the opposite of the above technique. Here you want to inhale making the same audible noise (‘hahhhh sound) through your mouth. Make sure you are actually taking in air flow and not just making the sound when inhaling and slowly filling up you lungs.
You want to make your inhale (still deep breathing) last as long as you can and then when your lungs are full you want to exhale quickly in a second or so expelling everything. When you exhale, it will be almost like an explosion, a quick ‘hooo’ type sound. .
I learned the yin/yang breathing exercises originally from an excellent internal mastery program I bought called Chi Power Plus some years back. Both above exercises and deep belly breathing in general should be practiced everyday to gain proficiency and become more comfortable to you. You can practice them in sets, maybe 10 each for example everyday, periodically throughout the day.
The yin chi breathing is supposed to help you attract things and the yang chi breathing repel. Whether that’s the case or not I honestly don’t know. But I can attest personally that I have practiced these exercises and they have definitely made my lung capacity stronger and increased my endurance and power. I’ve notice the difference especially when it comes to running and doing my martial arts.
Advanced Method of Applying These Techniques
A bit of an advanced method of applying them is doing them right in between workout reps (pushups, squats, sprints, weight training etc.) They are obviously more difficult to do then, as you are already shorter on breath thus making them more advanced. What will happen then if you do them in between sets of a workout regimen is that you will intensify your breath training regimen much quicker and really push yourself to the limit.
I would hold off on doing it this way or adding this in until you gain some proficiency and have been doing them for some time already (think a few months at least). I have some other great breathing and chi gong training exercises I will be sharing in future posts.
But for now try these out, be patient with them and give them some time. You can time yourself on inhale and exhale and you’ll gradually see your improvement as your long inhales (yin breathing) and long exhales (yang breathing) lengthen over time. Try them and see if how work for you!