Print Print Comment Comment Add to Favorites
Log in to save to My Yoga Journal!
Add to Favorites
Bookmark Bookmark

Breath of Inspiration

Yogic breathwork can transform your performance and the experience of your favorite sport.

By Catherine Guthrie


One of the biggest boons that yoga offers an athlete has nothing to do with working muscles and bones. Instead, it's all about learning to work with your breathing to quiet the nervous system and hone your focus on the task at hand. Researcher and yogi Ralph La Forge explains it this way: When you inhale deeply, the lungs expand and the chest wall stretches, stimulating the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain down into the chest and beyond. The pressure on the vagus nerve triggers a feeling of relaxation that lasts from 15 seconds to a couple of minutes.

"Consistent research shows that yogic breathing momentarily suppresses stress hormones," La Forge says. That ability—to momentarily quash stress hormones so you can concentrate—confers a competitive advantage in any sport. Just ask triathlete Maxine Bahns. Whether she's running, swimming, or biking, she relies on Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath) before the race to vanquish the jitters. "During a race there is always a moment of anxiety when the demons come up and you tell yourself you can't finish because it's too hot, or your blisters are bleeding too much, or you just don't feel good," she says. "So I go into my pPranayama, and the anxiety melts away."

Here's how to trigger the relaxation response:
To start, take a deep inhalation through the nose. Fill the lungs from the bottom to the top while counting slowly up to 3 (it's OK if the lungs fill quickly). Hold the breath for a slow count of 3. Then, slowly and evenly, exhale (use the Ujjayi technique if it's comfortable) to a count of 4 or 6. Repeat the breath several more times, gradually lengthening the exhalation to a count of 8.

Print Print Comment Comment Add to Favorites
Log in to save to My Yoga Journal!
Add to Favorites
Bookmark Bookmark
Full Name
Address 1
Address 2
Zip Code:
Email (req):

Reader Comments

Add a Comment »

Your Name:


Stay Connected with Us!

Yoga Journal Live events
ep14 YJ LIVE! Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado
Sep 14-21, 2014
florida YJ LIVE! Florida
Hollywood, FL
Nov 13-17, 2014

More Events

Join Yoga Journal's Benefits Plus
Liability insurance and benefits to support
teachers and studios.
Learn More
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 4 FREE GIFTS
Your subscription includes
Yoga for Neck & Shoulders • Yoga Remedies
Yoga for Headaches • Calm, Cool, Collected
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Yoga Journal
and my 4 FREE downloadable Yoga Booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions