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Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 12:34 pm

Breathe easy

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Strong diaphragms aren’t the cause celebre of the fitness world, but becoming a better breather can enhance your life – and your appearance – as much as a firm backside and killer thighs.

From stress relief to weight loss to muscle toning, making the most of what’s generally an automatic action will increase your energy and excise your stress.

Want to try it? Here are four techniques for better breathing.

Get more energy
Goal: Oxygenate your body, increase energy and lose weight.

Technique: Take a long, slow belly breath, inhaling through your nose to the count of four. Hold the breath four times as long to the count of 16. Exhale twice as long to the count of eight. Do 10 times, three times a day.

Get more relaxed
Goal: Breathe from your abdomen for relaxation.

Technique: Lie on your back, stand or sit comfortably. Place your hands on your stomach (abdomen). Inhale slowly and deeply, letting your stomach expand like a balloon. Keep a hand on your stomach. You will feel it expanding. Let your stomach fall as you exhale slowly, releasing old, stale air. Inhale easily.

Feel your stomach expand again. Press the air out, as you pull in your abdomen while exhaling. Do once or twice a day, for five minutes at a time.

Get more calm
Goal: Wait in line peacefully.

Technique: Do the slow, deep abdominal breath described above, with long, relaxed exhalation. If you’re stuck in a traffic tie-up, don’t breathe too deeply. Continue the abdominal breath. As you relax, hum or sigh to yourself for a while.

Get rid of stress
Goal: Cleansing breath. This is good before important business meetings or other stressful occasions.

Technique: Take in a deep breath through your nose. Exhale through your puckered mouth, as if you were blowing out a candle.

Repeat, inhaling and exhaling three times. Do a few sighs.

Inhale deeply, then sigh again. With each sigh, drop your chin to your chest and droop your shoulders. Think of yourself as a tire letting out all of its air. 

Also from Chad Rubel

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