Most of the day our breath is shallow, it is soft and even unnoticeable. When we start adding intensity to a workout, that breath becomes vital. It is crucial to attaining peak fitness that you understand the complexities of breath, that you focus and spend time to improve your lung capacity and timing.

My first experience was in a yoga class. I was skeptical and I was intrigued all at the same time. Being aware of your lung capacity is one thing, to put time into improving it is a whole other aspect of training. One that should not be ignored. There are two exercises that I want to share with you that should start this journey, if it has not already begun.

Find a comfortable sitting position. If you have tight hips or it is hard to cross the shins then sit up on a yoga block or fold up a blanket. You will be at the right height when your hips are higher than your knees. It will also allow your hip flexors to relax. Sit tall, pulling the shoulders back, lengthening the back of the neck and supporting the low back by bracing through the abdominals. Place one hand on your belly to start, and inhale. Try to fill up the belly as much as you can (big belly is best). Hold it for a count of three. Then exhale. Repeat three to five times. Now place your hand on your belly and one to the top of your chest. Take a big breath in and fill the belly first, then try to fill the upper lungs. You should feel the lungs expanding beneath your hands. Hold for another count of three. And then exhale first from the chest, then from the belly. Repeat three to five times. Start it all over again, this time counting to eight on the inhale, hold for an eight count and exhale for another count of eight. If you cannot make it to eight, try to find a number that is challenging for you. Once you finish this exercise, take a moment to notice how you feel. Sometimes just taking a moment in your day to breathe will help you refocus your attention, to rid any stress that might have crept up into your shoulders or started to restrict your breath. Notice this feeling, but even more important is finding time everyday to do this exercise.

The second exercise I want to give you is for mobility of the thoracic or upper back. Click here to purchase a gemini. Once you have a gemini, I want you to lay on your back with the gemini at the base of your neck, otherwise known as T1. You can lift your hips, but for the majority of people just placing it at that location is enough. Now focus on your breathing, big belly breath on the inhale, count to 5 at the top and exhale to release. Repeat three more times in that same spot. Move the gemini down an inch or two. Repeat this process through your middle back. If you look up images of the thoracic spine here you can see that the thoracic spine is connected to the rib cage, so when you breathe deeply and release this area at the same time you should dramatically increase your breath capacity.

These exercises, and this focus for the day is vital to your overall health. While so many of us take for granted how easily it is to breathe, we should take time every morning to breathe and to release any tension that could be limiting our breath capacity.

Katherine Ryan