Saturday, August 19, 2006

Breathe innnn... breathe ouuuuut...aaaaaaaaaaaah!

Here I'm summarising an article by Mareen Hagan, BScPT, BA PE, Physiotherapist, 1998 IDEA Program Director of the Year, Can-Fit-Pro Director of Education. This article appeared in the July/August issue of Can Fit Pro's official magazine.

A normally sedentary person when confronted with stress, tends to lean forward, draw shoulders up and arms in across the body and drop the head down. This deviation from a neutral or ideal posture results in reduced lung capacity. The more intense the concentration, the more tense the muscles become. The muscles in the arms, neck and chest contract, the muscles that move the thorax and control inhalation and muscular tensenenss dominate and restrict exhalation. The breaths become shorter and shorter, shallower and more frequent. The whole system becomes rigid in this altered posture. We then become fatigued from the decreased circulation of the blood and from the decreased availaibility of oxygen for the blood. As our responsibilites and their assocaited attention to daily problems become more demanding, we develop habits of forgetting to breathe. Have you caught yourself holding your breath or breathing shallow quiet breaths when you are under stress?

The process of breathing involves an exchange of about 4% oxygen for about 4% Carbon dioxide.
Inhalation: 79% oxygen, 20-21% nitrogen, 0.04% carbon dioxide and traces of other gases and water vapour
Exhalation: 79% nitrogen, 16% oxygen, 4% carbon dioxide

Signs and symptoms of improper breathing

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression and negative thoughts
  • Vagueness, mental sluggishness
  • Stomach upsets
  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness
  • visual problems
  • Hearing problems
  • chest pain
  • Back pain
  • Heart palpitatios
  • Chronic illness/disease

Benefits of breathing
Breathing is an essential exercise. Breath is considered the link between body and mind, the conscious and the unconscious mind and the key to the control of our physical and emotional physiology. Oxygen is critical to the production of ATP- which is the most vital component in our energy system. Lowering of ATP production compromises vitality, chances of disease, premature aging, etc.

Anatomy of breath
The average adult inhales and exhales about 16 times per minute. Each time about half a liter of air is drawn in and expelled. It is possible to increase this amount to upto 3.4 litres.

Benefits of effective breathing

  • Improvement in the elimination of toxins
  • Increased quality of blood
  • Improvement in digestion and assimilation of food
  • Imrpoved health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centers and nerves
  • Rejuvenation of the glands, especially the pituitary and the pineal gland which is essential for overall wellbeing
  • Rejuvenation of the skin and reduction in premature aging of the skin
  • Increased blood circulation to the internal organ due to massaging effect produced by the momvent of the diaphragm during deep breathing exercise- heart, liver, stomach, small intestine, pancrease
  • Increased health and vitality of the lungs
  • Decreased stress on the heart, blood pressure and risk for heart disease
  • Normalized brain function reducing anxiety levels
  • ...

Exercises to imrpove breathing

  • Regular physical activity including aerobic exercise, mind-body exercise, etc
  • Breathing exercies- thoracic, paradoxical, abdominal, and diaphragmatic
  • Laughter
  • Short frequent 5-10 minute activity breaks throughout the day
  • Stress management techniques
  • Breathing awareness techniques

4 breathing awareness techniques

  1. Observation breath
  2. Reversal breath- to increase breathing capacity
  3. Relaxed meditative diaphragmatic breathing
  4. Stimulating "yogic" breath

[I have these techniques in detail, leave me a comment/email if you wish to learn more! Trust me, it's very very valuable!]

Specific exercise
Cobra- lie prone (face down) with arms extended, reach behind boy and clasp hands with palsm together, legs extended with toes down on floor. Tighten the gluteals and quadriceps (your hips and thighs) and lengthen the arms, lift through the upper back and squeeze between the sholder blades. take a deep diaphragmatic breath.


Majid said...


I am certified through Can-fit-pro as a Personal Trainer Specialist and Nutrition and Wellness Specialist. I try to incorporate Quranic verses and Ahadith into Muslim client's workouts. As far as breathing goes, I have always found the Tasbeeh "Subhanallahi Wabihamdihi SubhanAllahi Azeem" to be extremely useful in improve breathing rythm. The Rasool (saw) said this Tazbeeh was light on the tongue but heavy on the scales. In addition, studies have been done that prove that the mere saying of the word "Allah" with the correct Arabic pronounication is excellent for regulating breathing. If this Dhikr can be incorporated into the workout it not only helps physiologically but spritually as well - Allahualam.
Hope these tips help inshAllah.

Humairah Irfan said...

walaikum as salam
Mashallah, those are excellent tips... I'm definitely going to implement them inshallah.

It's great to know another Muslim fitness trainer :) I'd love to hear more advice from you inshallah.

Majid said...


Likewise! I was impressed to say the least with the set up of this blog. It is a complete enactment of "Holistic" living - mind, body and soul.

Feel free to email me anytime at the University of Waterloo's fitness Q & A: