When I was in fifth grade, I started taking saxophone lessons. I remember Mr. Simon teaching me the proper way to breathe – he laid down on a table, put a flute case on his stomach, and breathed through his diaphragm, making the flute case rise and fall at his abdomen.
I was totally grossed out by it.
But, now I realize that proper breathing is very important, not only in music, but in sport and life as well.
My youngest son took karate lessons with Sensei Glenn at Daniel Island Japan Karate Institute for several years. Sensei taught proper breathing with kiai.
During professional tennis action, you may have heard Maria Sharapova kiai-ing every time she hit the ball.
Both Sharapova and martial arts students use the kiai to amass energy and release a single explosive focus of energy. It is the coordination of breathing with the physical activity that creates the power. Scientific research and practical experience show that a relaxed and powerful exhalation can add power and stability to movement. Like Mr. Simon’s breathing exercise, it involves the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm.
The kiai is also used to intimidate an opponent.
On a South Carolina Lowcountry note, it is akin to the "rebel yell."
Other proper breathing techniques canalso improve performance. With weight lifting, exhaling through the exertions and inhaling as you relax the muscle reduces the chance of injury, makes lifting easier, and helps the athlete perform the exercise more efficiently.
If swimmers do not breathe properly in the pool, their times will increase as both increased breathing motion and improper breathing technique slow the movement through the water.
In recent years I’ve rediscovered Mr. Simon’s technique from Yoga Journal’s DVD instructor Patricia Walden. Each morning I put in my yoga DVD and breath and stretch with Patricia.
She encourages, "Observe your breath. Inhale and observe the ribs expand. Exhale. Feel the ribs moving back, very, very slightly."
It’s both relaxing and invigorating at the same time.
"Normal inhalation. Slow, soft, deep exhalation."
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