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Three Breathing Exercises to Calm Your Nerves

You’ve spent the last eight weeks at camp dialing in your training, your nutrition and your mindset. But what about the moments right before you step out onto the mat? Have you prepared your mind and body to help calm your nerves?

Our breathing and feelings are inextricably linked, so during times of stress or nervousness, our body can fall into rapid and shallow breathing, exacerbating any feelings of nervousness we have. Leveraging breathing exercises can help you relax before your next competition or match, and help you maintain a good mindset and stay relaxing while competing, plus there are a ton of other great health benefits you can derive from breathwork.

Benefits of breathwork include:

  • Improving focus and concentration
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Fostering a sense of calmness and relaxation
  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure

Here are 3 simple breathing exercises you can try before your next competition:

Box breathing

Box breathing is a simple creath exercise accessible to athletes of all ages. It is called box breathing because it has four equal parts: inhale, hold, exhale, hold. Start with one second each and slowly increase the duration as you get more comfortable with the practice. Here’s how:

  1. Breathe in for one second. 
  2. Hold the inhale for one second. 
  3. Breathe out for one second. 
  4. Then, hold the exhale for one second. 

Belly breathing

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress. 

Here’s how:

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Fill your belly up with your breath. Your chest should not move.
  4. Breathe out through your nose or your mouth, whichever is most comfortable. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to gently push all the air out.
  5. Do this 5 to 10 times, taking your time with each breath.
  6. Take note of how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Pursed-lips breathing

This easy and accessible breathing technique helps you slow your breathing by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath. It can be especially useful during cardiovascular activities or stretching activities like yoga.

Practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin in order to correctly learn the breathing pattern.

To do it:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
  3. Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.
  4. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.

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