Pranayama, or yogic breath control, taught me that breathing differently can make a big difference in how I feel. I applied an awareness of breathing to my car-free commuting and developed these two mindful breathing practices to increase my comfort walking and biking in the winter.
The basic breath I use is a heat conservation breath. It recognizes my primary heat source is myself. Maximizing warmth is accomplished by simply breathing in and out slowly through the nose. The nasal passage is a longer route than mouth breathing. A slower breath through the longer passage maximally warms the air before it reaches my core. A slow exhale means I’m holding on to the air I’ve just warmed up for a maximal amount of time.
A second technique, the breath mask, is an alternative to wearing a scarf or face mask. I breath in quickly through the nose then exhale slowly through my mouth aiming the warm air upwards. This creates a small cloud that warms my face. By breathing in quickly and exhaling slowly, I feel some heat on my face most of the time. The breath mask is ideal while walking into a headwind– the oncoming wind will blow the warm air you’ve exhaled air back towards you.
Mindful breathing has made my winter walks more enjoyable. If you are looking to increase your own car-free commuting comfort, I recommend giving it a try.