Have you ever been in a workout class, or maybe you are sweating it out on a pilates reformer or a yoga mat, and your instructor is constantly reminding you to breathe? You might find that you were actually holding your breath and clenching your body as you completed the workout, but what’s the big deal? We naturally breathe whenever we need - I mean, it’s a survival instinct, right? So why do fitness instructors and wellness experts constantly remind people to breathe during a workout? I know I am always tell our Aligned Tribe community to keep breathing whenever I am filming new content for the Aligned Life Studio, and you are probably wondering why.
Well, it turns out that breathing works wonders for fat burning. That sounds crazy, right? But it’s true. Fat from food is stored in the body in cells called adipocytes where it is stored as a compound called triglyceride. Triglyceride is made up of three kinds of atoms; carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. When this is broken down around a fifth of it forms water (H2O) and four-fifths becomes carbon dioxide (CO2). The water is excreted in the urine, faeces, sweat, breath, tears, or other bodily fluids. But the primary way of getting rid of carbon dioxide is - you guessed it - breathing! Let’s look at the numbers: when we lose weight, 84% of the fat leaves the body via exhaling carbon dioxide, and the remaining 16% is shed in the form of water. So, if you wanted to lose 5 pounds, 4.2 of those pounds would be lost by exhaling carbon dioxide out of the body. Amazing, right?
You might be thinking, “Great! I’ll skip the workout, eat a cheeseburger, and just breathe aggressively the whole day!” And while that would be a wonderful fitness hack, that is sadly not exactly how it works.But, if you are focusing on breathing deeply and efficiently and using as much of your lung capacity as possible throughout your day and during your workouts, you will better dispose of fat by converting it to CO2.
Of course we all breathe all day everyday, but being mindful about our breath is key - that is, making sure to not just take quick, shallow breaths but to actually feel your lungs filling up with air is so important. However, staying focused on breathing fully into your lungs isn’t as easy as it sounds - so I have an exercise for you to try to help you become aware of your breath and practice filling up your lungs to take a deep breath. It’s called box breathing - you inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold your breath out for a count of four, and repeat. Imagine drawing a line for a side of a box on each count of four. If you want to take it up a notch and release excess stress, try exhaling for six to eight counts. Exhaling longer than inhaling can reset your nervous system and add a sense of calm to the body.
Now, try to be aware of your breath throughout your day - while you make your morning coffee, when you drive to the grocery store, and when you hop on your mat or rebounder to practice a little movement medicine. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily chaos and start taking quick shallow breaths, so just check in with yourself every few hours, and practice a little box breathing if you need help reconnecting with your breath.
If you are looking to release more stress and become even more connected to your breath, you can find amazing breathing sequences in my Aligned Life Studio, and hours of movement medicine to help you become stronger, more aligned, and glowing from the inside out. Such as the Breathe Deep on the Body Sphere. Give the studio a try with a free 7 day trial if you are not already a member.
In the meantime, keep on breathing.
P.S. I learned a little more about how exactly efficient breathing is the secret to fat burning from this wonderfully informative blog from CNN. Absolutely give it a read if you want to know more about the benefits of deep breathing.