Proper breathing control is important for a successful stretch.
Proper breathing helps to relax the body, increases blood flow throughout the
body, and helps to mechanically remove lactic acid and other by-products of
You should be taking slow, relaxed breaths when you stretch, trying to exhale as
the muscle is stretching. Some even recommend increasing the intensity of the
stretch only while exhaling, holding the stretch in its current position at all
other times (this doesn't apply to isometric stretching).
The proper way to breathe is to inhale slowly through the nose, expanding the
abdomen (not the chest); hold the breath a moment; then exhale slowly through
the mouth. Inhaling through the nose has several purposes including cleaning
the air and insuring proper temperature and humidity for oxygen transfer into
The rate of breathing should be controlled through the use of the glottis in the
back of the throat. This produces a very soft "hm-m-m-mn" sound inside the
throat as opposed to a sniffing sound in the nasal sinuses. The exhalation
should be controlled in a similar manner but with more of an "ah-h-h-h-h"
sound, like a sigh of relief.
As you breathe in, the diaphragm presses downward on the internal organs and
their associated blood vessels, squeezing the blood out of them. As you exhale,
the abdomen, its organs and muscles, and their blood vessels flood with new
blood. This rhythmic contraction and expansion of the abdominal blood vessels
is partially responsible for the circulation of blood in the body. Also, the
rhythmic pumping action helps to remove waste products from the muscles in the
torso. This pumping action is referred to as the respiratory pump . The
respiratory pump is important during stretching because increased blood flow to
the stretched muscles improves their elasticity, and increases the rate at
which lactic acid is purged from them.