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June 23, 2023

The Art of Breathing: Techniques from Pro Athletes and Navy SEALs

Breathing for focus, enhanced performance, and staying calm under pressure.

Written by:
The Mental Team

Breathing. It’s as simple as fuck. In. Out. In. Out. Seems idiotic to actually ponder on something that happens involuntarily every single damn second, right? Wrong. Turns out, your basic-ass breathing habits could be the key to cracking open a new level of mental prowess, the kind that gets you into the elite badass club of pro athletes and Navy SEALs.

I know what you’re thinking. “Are you seriously telling me that if I just huff and puff differently, I’ll magically morph into Tom Brady or some shit?” Not quite, my friend, but you'll be surprised by how much of a difference the right kind of huffing and puffing can make.

1. Tactical Breathing: For When Shit Hits the Fan

Let's start with the big dogs of discipline - the Navy SEALs. These folks deal with pressure like we deal with a wrong coffee order. Tactical breathing, also known as combat or box breathing, is a technique they use to remain calm and focused amidst what I'd call 'holy-shit-I'm-going-to-die' situations.

Box breathing is simple: Inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold your breath again for a count of four. Now, you're not just going to do this while you're stuck in traffic or in a painfully boring Zoom meeting. Incorporate this into your daily practice and watch your patience and cool-headedness multiply.

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Because Your Gut Isn’t Just for Beer

When you breathe, do your chest puff out like a teenage boy trying to impress a girl, or does your belly move? If it's the former, you're doing it wrong.Pro athletes, from ballers to runners, practice diaphragmatic breathing. This technique involves breathing deeply into your lungs by flexing your diaphragm instead of shallowly just filling your chest. This promotes better oxygen exchange, which can improve athletic performance and reduce stress levels. It’s the kind of controlled deep-breathing shit that makes you feel like you’re in a hippie yoga class, but trust me, it's worth it.

3. Rhythmic Breathing: Your New Running Buddy

Ever found yourself gasping for air during a run like you’re a fish out of water? That's because you're breathing all wrong. Rhythmic breathing is a technique favored by runners, and it's as simple as syncing your breathing with your steps. This creates a rhythm that optimizes your oxygen intake and can even protect you from injury.

This is how it works: If you're a beginner, start with a 2:2 pattern. Inhale for two steps, exhale for two steps. As you get better, shift to a 3:3 pattern, then to 4:4, and so on. It's not about how many counts you can reach but about maintaining that rhythm and consistency.

4. Active Recovery: Breathing Your Way to Recharge 

Recovery is crucial for sustained performance, but it's often overlooked. Pro athletes and Navy SEALs understand the importance of active recovery, and breathing techniques play a pivotal role in this process.

Enter the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale forcefully through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle four times, and you'll tap into the power of deep relaxation and rejuvenation. It's like hitting the reset button on your mind and body.

5. Mindful Breathing: The Secret Sauce of Mental Zen

You know all that mindfulness crap people have been raving about? Well, it turns out, there might be something to it. Mindful breathing is a practice where you focus all your attention on your breath, how it feels coming in and out, how your body reacts, and so on. It's like being on a date with your breath, minus the awkward small talk.

Pro athletes use this technique to improve their focus and reduce anxiety before big games. 

Breathe like a SEAL. Focus like an athlete. Live like a boss. And remember: take life one breath at a time. You've got this.


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