I Have a Fascination with Breath

 

Breathing. We all do it. Usually unconsciously. We inhale and exhale with little to no thought about it. Most people don’t realize how important it can be to take the time to notice our breath and what our breathing can tell us.

There are 3 kinds of breathing; Abdominal, Thoracic and Clavicular. Each way we breathe can produce certain responses in our body.

Abdominal, or belly breathing is what we will discuss today. This kind of breathing uses the diaphragm and the Transversus Abdominus muscle (which is like a girdle that wraps around from back to front). This type of breathing is the most calming to your nervous system and the one you want to call one on when you are trying to relax, meditate AND create a strong (flat) core.

How does relaxing and doing core work use the same muscles? Though it seems counter-intuitive, it’s true. We just shift our mind’s focus a little bit and BAM, we go from long flowing exhalations to strong “birthday candle blowing” core work.

My fascination with breath began in a college modern dance class where we used it to create movement, tension, and release. This had never been brought to my attention in any other form of dance. My mind was blown.

So began my journey of breath. Once I started to notice my breath, the world started sharing more information with me. Funny how that happens isn’t it. I didn’t need to look for the info; I simply became open to it, and the info found me.

Things would pop out in books, or on the radio. During chiropractic sessions and yoga sessions, I learned different techniques to release stress and how to breathe freely without fear. ..

You might giggle at that. Who is afraid of breathing?

Imagine being in a completely silent room filled with people. As you sit quietly in that room, how many of you would consciously worry about breathing too loudly? You might not think it to be true of yourself, but I see it over and over again. People do not like to be loud with their breath.

I encourage you that while you are in my classes – you breathe. And do not be afraid to be loud about it, my friends. But, while you are being loud, I also want you to be conscious of how you are breathing and to make sure it is going where you want it to. That is much harder than it seems and some of you will need to do work to achieve it.

Our society is hard wired for stress nowadays. And when we are stressed, we breathe shallow and higher; into our clavicle area.

“Habitual chest breathing not only reflects physical and mental problems, it creates them. It mildly but chronically over stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, keeping the heart rate and blood pressure too high, precipitating difficulties with digestion and elimination, and causing cold and clammy hands and feet.”
-David Coulter,
The Anatomy of Hatha Yoga

Breathing high up into your chest, keeps you constantly living in a fight or flight mode, leaving you at a serious disadvantage in life. However, there is also some research that constant deep belly breathing can create Diastisis Recti in certain individuals. Some people start life breathing abdominally and then through time or a stressful event, switch to clavicular breathing, or vice versa. This all makes things even more confusing… How should we breathe? What is the right way?

First off, let me say there is no wrong way to breath. There are ways of learning to breathe that can enhance your health and keep you in a better state of mind. So, what do you do?

First and foremost, it’s a good idea to check-in with yourself and find out how you breathe normally. Start noticing your breath throughout the day. How are you breathing as you drive in the car, in a meeting, in bed at night? Does it change for you, or do you breathe the same way all day? Once you become more conscious and aware of how you breathe on a daily basis, you can make shifts when you know you need to.

Since many of us are high stress individuals, today this article is focused on creating a deep relaxive breath to help you unwind after a long day.

Relaxed Belly Breathing

Lay on your back with your knees bent.
Your lower back and ribs are gently pressed into the floor and your pelvis is tilted slightly posterior (but relaxed).
Your spine is long, shoulders relaxed and chin tucked slightly down (allowing your neck to feel long).
Take a breath. Bring the breath all the way down into your abdomen.
Exhale fully, expelling the air completely, without being overly forceful.
Repeat.

Things to note:

Breathing is 3D, not two dimensional. So when you inhale, you should notice not only your belly rising, but feel your sides expand and air being pushed into your lower back. (P.S. – this is great for releasing lower back pain. Especially while lying on Yoga Tune-up Balls).

Focus on the exhale. You will automatically inhale after the exhalation. The deeper the release of the exhalation, the bigger your inhalation will become because you have created more space for new air to enter. We keep a lot of old air in our bodies. Not healthy. Practice taking some time every now and again to really expel that old stuff out. When I’m fighting a virus that I feel in my lungs, I’ll switch my breathing to focus on my lungs and expel that old air out, which will often times also release any infection I feel building there.

Our breath and our ability to breath is such a gift! While our body does it easily and automatically, it is worth paying attention to and receiving the benefits and joys it offers us. If you would like to work on your breathing and bringing greater attention to it, I’d love to help you. Contact me to set up an appointment.

My next article will examine how you can use breath throughout your workout to enhance it and create a stronger core.

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