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Breathwork For Athletes

What is breathwork?

Breathwork is a practice where an individual takes conscious control of the breath to influence their mental, emotional, and physical state.

Typically, slow and gentle breathing induces calm states of mind and body, while rapid and forceful breathing enhances energy and alertness.

Breathwork is a practice where an individual takes conscious control of the breath to influence their mental, emotional, and physical state.

Typically, slow and gentle breathing induces calm states of mind and body, while rapid and forceful breathing enhances energy and alertness.

Breathing techniques can be categorized according to breathing rate, length of breath phases (inhalation, pause, exhalation, pause), and forcefulness of breathing.

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Did you know...?

Breathwork evolved from ancient yogic teachings.

In yoga, the practice of expanding and retaining one's breath is called pranayama, which literally means controlling (ayama) the breath (prana).

Breathing and the body

Two systems control the autonomic nervous system:
1) Parasympathetic system
2) Sympathetic system


The parasympathetic system, also known as the rest and relax system, is responsible for slowing heart rate and breathing and lowering blood pressure, leading to feelings of calm and ease.

The sympathetic system, also known as the fight or flight system, is responsible for speeding heart rate and breathing and heightening blood pressure, leading to feeling of activation and excitement.

Most of the time, these systems function automatically and outside conscious awareness. Breathwork, though, allows for conscious control over them. Breathwork has been shown to impact emotion regulation, cognitive function, attention, perception, subjective awareness, and decision-making.

Slow breathing

Slow breathing has vast effects on the brain and body.

First, it improves breathing efficiency by recruiting more alveoli, tiny air sacs in the lungs that help move oxygen through the body. This improves blood oxygenation so the body has more energy.

Slow breathing also shifts the body toward parasympathetic dominance, which improves reactivity to physical and mental stress and minimizes how hard the heart works.

To achieve a long-term shift toward parasympathetic activity, researchers suggest prolonged practice (
3 months) of slow breathing.

Slow breathing means anywhere from 4 to 10 breaths per minute, each breath consisting of one inhalation and exhalation. Compare that to the typical respiratory rate in humans which is about 10 to 20 breaths per minute.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, breath holds: 4-7-8, box breathing

Nasal breathing

The nose acts as a filter and conditioner for air before it enters the body, and plays a large role in cognitive function.

The nose filters air to remove dust and bacteria, and warms and moistens the air so it can be used effectively by the respiratory system. This may be in part why research shows that breathing through the nose is more efficient than breathing through the mouth at moderate and high intensity aerobic efforts.

Nasal breathing also synchronizes electrical activity in the brain to support cognitive tasks related to emotion and memory.

Breathing techniques

Alternate nostril breathing, breath holds: 4-7-8, box breathing