Doesn’t that sound lovely, nice deep breaths. On average we take about 40,000 breaths per day, sadly a lot of us are not breathing efficiently. Let’s fix that!
First, why should we even care about it? Breathing is the number one skill we need to learn in order to survive, therefore our nervous system takes it very seriously. For example, if our breathing is short and shallow our body perceives this a potential threat causing our stress hormones to increase (cortisol and adrenaline). If our body is in a state of stress we are not fully able to accomplish our fitness goals to their full potential because of the rise in stress hormones. So let’s start with a test:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a nice deep breath and see what rises first.
Did you just inhale from your mouth or nose??
Rate your results:
Your chest rose first (not so good)
Your belly rose first followed by your chest (woohoo winner!)
You might be thinking, “I’m breathing either way, why should I care again?” I want you to think about if you have tight traps, TMJ, rotator cuff issues, tension headaches, or cramps in your side when you run. These are all potentially signs that you are using your accessory muscles to breathe (scalenes, traps, intercostals, pecs, just to name a few) instead of your diaphragm. This is a problem when you perform 40,000 repetitions daily and create faulty motor patterns.
What should I use to breathe?
You should be using your diaphragm to breathe. This lovely muscle lives just underneath your rib cage and attaches to your spine, pelvis and multiple ribs. If you begin to teach your body how to use it properly, you’ll find an increase in energy, performance will increase, muscle tension in your neck will decrease and your core will get stronger!
Are you ready to learn how to use it? Here is a simple exercise called alligator breathing. Lie on your stomach with your arms folded so that you can rest your forehead on the back of them. From there take a deep breath in through your nose while trying to imagine filling up a balloon inside your stomach. Feel the pressure of your belly pushing into the floor. Once your belly is full, pause for two counts then fully exhale through your mouth like you are blowing through a straw. Once you have fully exhaled, pause with no breath for two seconds (you’ll be ok), then repeat the cycle by inhaling through your nose again. Start off with 30 seconds, and build to 5 minutes. When you can complete the 5 minutes without thinking about what you’re doing the motor patterns should have been reset.
Once you have mastered this, I have a sneaky suspicion some of your tension related issues in your neck and shoulders may disappear. For an added bonus you can take your mastery to the next level using the Yoga 4-7-8 breath.
If you haven’t been in to experience one of our Relax and Restore classes yet, come in today and learn the wonders of easy breathing!