Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Three part breathing

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Mental Side

In yesterday’s post, I explained how athletes need to develop the ability to relax and withdraw either temporarily or completely

Slow down and breathe.

depending on the situation.  Today’s post starts a series of posts dedicated to techniques that can help athletes accomplish all this.

In stressful situations, whether they know it or not, most people’s breathing undergoes some changes.  Some people rarely breath at all and if they do, it usually is rapid and shallow.  The three part breathing technique forces a player to breath properly to get the necessary oxygen for peak performance but also can trick the body and mind to relax.

To do this technique, first divide your lungs into three parts – lower (belly button area), middle (lower chest), and upper (upper chest).  When athletes get stressed, they usually only use the upper portion of the lungs when their breathing becomes rapid and shallow.  Three part breathing forces you to use the entire lungs.

Breathing in through your nose, force the air down into the lower portion of the lungs first.  As you continue to slowly inhale, fill up your middle section next.  Then finish by filling the upper chest area.  To squeeze a little more air in, raise your shoulders as you finish the third part.  The slow, continuous inhale can last 15 seconds or more as you get better at it.  

When you exhale, breath out of your mouth by reversing the parts starting with the emptying of the upper part first and then moving down to the middle and lower parts respectively.  The exhale should take about the same length of time it took you to inhale.  Sports psychologists add that athletes should visualize all the tension, stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts leaving the body as they exhale.

To help do this correctly, an athlete can put one hand over their belly button and the other just above the chest.  When they inhale, the bottom hand should move outward first followed by the upper hand as breath enters the upper chest.  Upon the exhale, the top hand should move back first and then the lower hand as air is forced out.

Like any other skill, this technique takes practice.  If a player is in the dugout or on-deck, he can do one, full, three-part breath before entering the field or batter’s box.  If he is in bed and having trouble falling asleep, he can do a series of these breaths to get his mind/body to relax. 

Give it a shot and tell me what you think!

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