When we were born there was one thing we did before any other. One act of movement that started our journey off, that started off our exploration into... well... everything. That one thing was our first breath.
Breathing is the first thing we did when we were born. Breathing is what makes us move; we associate it with our state of fitness (“I was out of breath”), our general health and well-being, our mood (“he is full of hot air”).
It seems almost patronising to write to you encouraging you to breathe or more specifically to breathe properly. I always get funny looks when I mention this to people initially – I realise it does sound odd as you have been breathing properly since you were born... or have you?
When we are born we are perfect, everything works as it should, and that includes breathing. To breathe properly we need to use our diaphragms. This is a muscle located under your ribs. The diaphragm is the main muscle used in respiration and is a vital core muscle. When used correctly the diaphragm will not only enable full inhalations of air into our lungs (allowing us to take in more oxygen), but it will also help us to fully protect our spine and enable proper core functionality ie the use of the entire core area as a cylinder to protect us through movement.
In the modern fast paced world in which we all reside, we have forgotten how to breathe. We live frantic lives - deadlines, traffic jams, homework, tests, mortgage payments – it doesn’t exactly equate to peace and tranquillity. We have become accessory/emergency breathers. What this means is that we are (from a breathing standpoint) always near a state of fight or flight.
We have started breathing up into our chests (I was told for years by rugby coaches that whenever I was tired to put my hands on my head and take deep breathes up into my chest – a contradiction if ever there was one – although the intention was right). We use the small muscles of our neck and shoulders as well as the sizeable muscles of our trapezius to enable us to breathe.
Have you ever suffered from a tight neck/upper back, regular headaches? These are all signs of incorrect breathing. It doesn’t stop there. Incorrect breathing can cause you to become more nervous and anxious. It can prevent full cognitive function and incorrectly breathing (and therefore contracting of our core stabilisers) can and will result in lower back pain.
The cure for many of these ailments is very often a trip top your doctor, physio, chiropractor at a cost of millions every year. Wouldn’t you agree that simply trying to correct how we breathe on a daily basis is something that is worth exploring and trying out?
Sit in the chair you’re in. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. As you do this you should feel the hand on your stomach start to move outwards. This is because you are now contracting and using your diaphragm properly. This can also be done lying down but you might want to wait until you get home for that one – unless you are REALLY comfortable in your work environment.
For anyone participating in strenuous activity/sport – try and diaphragmatically as you are exercising. It will take some getting used to find the right speed for you – but improved oxygen uptake will allow more oxygenated blood to be pumped to your muscles. Proper breathing will allow your breathe to return to normal quicker once you stop. The faster you can return your breathe to normal, the faster you can go again which will equal improved performance.
Breathing is truly amazing – no one reading this could tell me how many times they do it in a day. It just happens, but somewhere along the line we stopped doing it properly. Breathe as we were designed to. You will feel more relaxed (this can happen very quickly) and you will be far more in control of how you move your own body and for how long.
Spend some time exploring this. It will change your life….