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Filed under: Breathing exercises

Switch up your heart rate a bit: Heart Rate Variability 101

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Your heart rate is (hopefully!) not steady; it should vary. The more it does so—rhythmically—the better for health and performance. And you have the power to influence it.

“Heart rate variability,” a way to track how your heart rate rhythmically goes up and down, helps you objectively assess your mind-body optimization. When your heart rate varies more, it’s good for your health and performance. Breathing at certain paces has a big impact on heart rate variability and—in turn—the mind-body connection and performance. And because you can learn to control your breathing, you can also improve your HRV. For more information about HRV and breathing to increase your HRV, read HPRC’s “Vary Your Heart Rate to Perform Your Best.”

Take a deep breath and relax

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
All the added stresses of military life can leave your body’s muscles tight and sore. Deep breathing exercises can help release that excess physical tension.

Have you breathed deeply lately? Breathing’s not something we usually have to think about, so we tend to take it for granted. But our breath can be a powerful tool for relaxation and stress relief. Taking time every day to focus on deliberate breathing—that is, breathing deeply and with control—can allow your body’s relaxation response to kick in and help you de-stress.

Slow-paced and deep-breathing exercises have been widely studied for their relaxing effects on the body’s stress response system. There are several types of deep-breathing exercises you can perform, but one of the easiest and most common is just called “deep breathing” (or “diaphragmatic breathing”). HPRC has a video on Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance that introduces three breathing strategies for human performance optimization: “Deep Breathing,” “Alternate Nostril Breathing,” and “Fast-Paced Breathing.” A longer version is available for you to practice along with the instructor, or you can download a Performance Strategies transcript that takes you through these breathing exercises step-by-step to achieve relaxation.

For more ideas on relaxation strategies, check out the Stress Control resources in HPRC’s Mind Tactics domain.

Breathe out stress; breathe in relaxation or energy

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Check out HPRC’s instructional videos on breathing tactics you can use to relax or energize you mind and body!

HPRC shows you how to perform three basic breathing exercises in the HPRC Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance video. Three basic techniques are covered:

  1. Deep Breathing. Use this method whenever you need to release tension and relax. This is a very effective strategy to de-stress quickly.
  2. Alternate Nostril Breathing can help stimulate both sides of your brain, which encourages optimal cognitive performance. So if you are feeling mentally fatigued, try this technique.
  3. Breath of Fire. Commonly used in some yoga practices, fast-paced breathing encourages increased brain activity and can confer feelings of energy in mind and body. Also known as “bellows breath, this is a powerful method to be used carefully according to instructions.

Using any of these strategies in the right situation can provide you with the edge you need to reach optimal performance. Instructions for these techniques are also available in an annotated transcript of the video.

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