We all do it.
Sometimes consciously, but generally not.
Which can affect us far more than you might think.
Yes, the basic act of breathing keeps us alive, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Our breath and the way we breathe (or the way we hold our breath) can affect everything from our stress level to headaches, to movement, core strength, incontinence, pain level, balance, flexibility, posture, and so much more.
According to a study by Smith et al, 2006, breathing and continence have a direct relationship to back pain in women. Even more so than BMI or activity level.
That’s something to think about, isn’t it? Especially when back pain affects up to 80% of people in the US at some point in their life. Out of that 80%, only 20-30% of those are actually a structural issue. And of the 20-30 % that are dealing with structural things such a herniated disc?
Well, that too can often be traced back to improper breath holding during strenuous activity.
I’ve had a fascination with breath for a very long time. In college, as a modern dance major, we used breath to create movement, tension, and release. My mind was blown at the simplicity of it and the power of it all at once. So, began my journey of breath. And 27 years later I’m still absolutely fascinated and in love with breath!
Working with people and their breath in classes and with private clients over the past 10 years, I can tell you that breathing for a lot of people is HARD! One of my students coined the term “Breathing isn’t for sissies.” And she is so right.
But we are born to breathe…
Shouldn’t it just be automatic, you ask? Well, it is… and it isn’t… Let’s say that you are doing something stressful and are unconsciously holding your breath. Your body wouldn’t allow you to just pass out. It would automatically make you breathe, though you probably wouldn’t even notice. In fact, you probably didn’t notice you were holding your breath in the first place.
We live in a wild and chaotic environment. At least, from your nervous systems’ point of view. There are innumerable things in your life that could affect the way you now breathe. In utero being cramped in a small space, an emotional trauma as a child, a physical injury, illness, surgical scars, muscle imbalances, restrictive shoulder issues, work/family stress, pregnancy, posture, etc… The list is endless. Your nervous system and how you perceive the world are completely connected to the way you breathe.
Now, the question is, can you change your breathing and make it more optimal? Absolutely!
Does it take some time and effort? Sure, but what doesn’t?
Is it worthwhile to make the effort? Yes, without a doubt. And as a woman, in particular, the benefits will amaze you.
Can it help you with?
Pelvic organ prolapse?
Post-pregnancy core restore?
Creating a strong and highly functional core?
Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes!
Learning to breathe better now will aid you your entire life. I teach dancers as young as 7 yrs old these techniques and I teach older women in their 70’s. No matter your age, whether you’ve had asthma your whole life, or whether you just had a baby last week. These techniques are safe, gentle, and dare I say, relaxing?
Currently, I’m super excited to be certifying in the Breath Immersion program through Burrell Ed (one of the UK’s leading-edge educators in the field of modern Pregnancy, Post Baby, 3rd Age (Peri-to Post-Menopause) and Female Fitness). And am planning some workshops coming up after the first of the year. So stay tuned.
Can’t wait till then and want to start now? I love your enthusiasm! We can schedule privates sessions or come take barre. I include some breath work in all of my classes. Just one more reason you should buy a class pack and come see me at my studio every week. 😉
Here’s a simple exercise to get you started:
|▪||Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.|
|▪||Your spine is long, shoulders relaxed, and chin tucked slightly down.|
|▪||Place one hand lightly on your pubic mound and the other on your belly.|
|▪||Take a breath in through your nose. Bring the breath all the way down into your abdomen and pelvic floor.|
|▪||Notice how your hands rise as you inhale and drop as you exhale.|
|▪||Exhale fully, but without being overly forceful.|
Some of you will find this to be quite difficult.
Others (especially if you’ve trained as a vocalist or you’ve played a wind instrument) will find it easier. But either way, I want you to take the time to tune into your body and really feel what’s going on.
If it’s hard, ask yourself- Where does the breath go? Where can it not go? Where does it get stuck?
If it’s easy, play with it. How much can go in? Can you slow it down? Where else can you send it? Into the sides? Into your back?
Be your own body detective.
Things to think about:
-Breathing is 3D, not two dimensional. So when you inhale, you want to think about not only your belly rising, but also feel your sides expand, and air being pushed into your lower back.
-A longer exhalation will allow a deeper inhalation because you have created more space for new air to enter.