Maintaining control over our emotions, anxiety, and stress have a long and ancient relationship to our breathing. Pranayama is a combination of two Sanskrit words meaning life force and restraint or control from the 6th and 5th century BC. For youth shooters, being in control over every aspect of their physical being is going to produce positive results.
Breathing exercises can calm the mind, lower blood pressure, increase focus and concentration, and overall create a more stable mood. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the body and ultimately allows your brain and body to merge. Here are a couple breathing exercises worth sharing with your squad during this time away from school and shooting.
Pranayama is divided into three pieces – Purak (Inhalation), Kumbhak (Retention) and Rechak (Exhalation). All of the following engage these three phases and have some common procedures:
Otherwise known as the ‘bellows breath’, with bhastrika, both the inhale and exhale are forceful.
Begin in a comfortable seated position. Take a deep breath in and breathe out forcefully. Immediately, breathe in with the same force. Inhale and exhale repeatedly, using the diaphragmatic muscles.
Do ten cycles of breath to complete one round. Continue for two more rounds, pausing in between rounds.
Viloma is a great pranayama for beginners. It can be done sitting or lying down.
Begin by inhaling to a third of the lungs capacity, then pause for two to three seconds. Inhale another third and pause again. Next, inhale until the lungs are filled. Pause briefly before repeating this pattern on the exhale.
This is a great pranayama that helps calm the mind and relax the nervous system.
Also known as right nostril breathing, this pranayama stimulates the solar energy in the body which is warming and energizing.
Sit in a comfortable seated position with the back straight and shoulders relaxed. Close your left nostril with your right index and middle finger and inhale through the right nostril. Then, close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale from the left nostril.
This is one round. You can repeat for 10 – 20 rounds.
I know this all seems odd and perhaps completely new to you, but I assure you having an edge over your competitors is what makes great shooters. Remember, what you do when no one is watching is what separates a champion from everyone else.
David R. Vaught, Ph.D.