: Liz Ford
Regulating your breathing is key for boosted performance in a lot of activities. From power and endurance sports like running and swimming to fine motor skill-sets like target shooting and playing a musical instrument, deep, coordinated, abdominal breathing is part of basic training. It's a no-brainer that you need oxygen to be able to play pool, but I bet few people think about the billiards benefits that can come with better breathing. Here are some tips to help you come up for air:
1. The KIND of breathing matters.
Achieve abdominal breathing by focusing on working your diaphragm to fill your lungs to capacity, instead of shallow breathing or panting that fills just your chest. You should be breathing in through the nose and out through the nose or mouth. Slow it down so that each in and out breath is performed completely.
2. What to do when you're NOT at the table.
Basic breathing techniques are something you can practice without a pool table in sight. Abdominal breathing is great for relaxation and meditation - an overall good way to breath most of the time! Commit some time to getting comfortable with the practice.
They say that pool matches are won or lost from the chair, meaning that what you think about and how you behave while your opponent is shooting has a direct effect on the outcome of your play. Commit your attention to breathing while you're in the chair and you'll not only combat physical stress by keeping your heart rate and blood pressure in check, but also toughen your mental game by having a positive, tangible direction for your focus.
3. What to do when you ARE at the table.
There are oodles of benefits to having a disciplined breathing practice while you are shooting, starting with better form. In order to accomplish full abdominal breathing while in your pool stance, you need to effectively support your upper body and create space for your lungs and abdomen to expand. This support and space simultaneously help you create solidity and room for your cue to swing freely.
You may have noticed, on those occasions when you are set to run out the table, that with every passing shot you feel more physically stressed and nervous, sometimes downright dizzy. The tendency to hold your breath or breath shallowly in pressure situations can create real problems if you have seven or eight shots to make to win. Make sure that you're pacing yourself and feeding your brain while you're at the table by maintaining steady abdominal breathing during and in between shots. Chances are, you'll see a reduction in 8 or 9-ball-itis.
Taking the time to create and practice a regular pattern of breathing that integrates with your pre-shot and shot routines is worth the investment many times over. By coordinating your movements with your breath, you'll be training your brain and body to perform in a consistent manner. Find the pattern that's best for you and stick with it. Happily, you're likely to find yourself spending more and more time playing by feel and rhythm.