You might say "Why tell me about something I do everyday?" A few years ago I would have told you the same about breathing, but, over my career in performance psychology my perspective has shifted to why we should control our breathing.
My opinion now is that controlled breathing techniques are performance psychology tools that are underused in sports and business.
One of the reasons why controlled breathing is so good is that it helps balance our 'fight or flight response' (seen in the face of 'danger') and our 'relaxation response'. In a review of research I completed while studying at Massey University, it came to my attention that there was some evidence that practising controlled breathing techniques over time could help people shift their bodies response from 'alert' to 'calm' (Laborde et al., 2017; Toschi-Dias et al., 2017) along with reducing anxiety (Khng, 2016) during a test or activity. Sometimes our flight or fight alert response is needed, but in fact, a lot of the time its not... if we were to react in a calm and relaxed manner, we may actually be more effective.
So.... why would this matter?
In sports and business, reacting calmly to a situation with less anxiety could help us relax, clear our mind and get us mentally prepared to what is coming up.
For example, if we have a hockey, rugby, netball or cricket player that is about to play in a big match, using specific controlled breathing exercises can help she/he feel relaxed when playing in front of a big crowd, or facing a better opponent.
In the workplace, reacting calmly to a situation with less anxiety could help us feel relaxed when faced with a harder task given by our boss, completing a task with someone in a higher position, or give us a resource to help control our nerves when we need to focus on a presentation being done to the senior executives or managers.
By practising certain controlled breathing techniques over time, we can give ourselves a resource to cope with a situation we might not be used to, helping us free up space to re-align to what needs to be done.
So simple one would say... and sometimes it is. However, sometimes perseverance, dedication and the correct breathing techniques can take some time to master. Then... completing it at the right time to help you effectively become more productive at your job or sport adds to this little balancing act.
Khng, K. H. (2016). A better state-of-mind: Deep breathing reduces state anxiety and enhances test performance through regulating test cognitions in children. Cognition and Emotion, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2016.1233095
Laborde, S., Allen, M. S., Göhring, N., & Dosseville, F. (2017). The effect of slow-paced breathing on stress management in adolescents with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 61(6), 560–567. https://doi.org/10.1111/jir.12350
Toschi-Dias, E., Tobaldini, E., Solbiati, M., Costantino, G., Sanlorenzo, R., Doria, S., … Montano, N. (2017). Sudarshan kriya yoga improves cardiac autonomic control in patients with anxiety-depression disorders. Journal of Affective Disorders, 214, 74–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.03.017