Born To Breathe

Belly henna. My reminder to BREATHE.
Breathing is a no brainer. You don't have to consciously think about taking in a breath and letting one out. Under normal circumstances you don't have to think about how fast, how slow, how deep or how shallow to breathe. And lucky for you, you never have to worry about forgetting to breathe because its all automated for you by your brilliant body. 

Unless you're me.

The freakishly inept.

I caught myself holding my breath while running the other day. I was probably about 3 miles into a run when I started getting light headed. Then I had the sudden horrific realization that I was stupidly holding my breath!! Wha??? Why would I do that? I assure you, I'm not out to take revenge on my brain cells for making me think about mycotoxins in my coffee.

But its not just the holding my breath part, its the WAY I breathe.

When I was young I played the flute and then later on the oboe. Two instruments I can truly say I suck at. It could have been because I can't count and move my fingers at the same time, but more likely it was because I never learned how to breathe properly.

As it turns out, this minor breathing issue could affect my running. Oh... and my lifting and other workovers as well. Who am I kidding? This breathing thing is pretty damn crucial. Uggh.

My years of never learning to breathe came back to haunt me a couple months ago while meeting with my coach to work on some basic movement videos for his website. He was shocked to learn that I didn't know how to breathe with my belly. Um. Yeah. You're coaching the queen of ineptidtudeness. I know... probably not a word, but are you really that surprised? What's the big deal with breathing anyway? Isn't that the job of my lungs? Last time I checked my belly made a fine container for those delicious morsels of dark chocolate and rum. I don't recall breathing being part of its job description.


Belly breathing is how we were born to breathe.

Dude. If you don't believe me, don't take my word for it. Consult the expert...

That baby has some serious breathing skills. I'm sure he could probably out-cry me too. 

When we belly breathe we use our diaphragm to draw air in and out. Apparently, there are many advantages to this breathing technique.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing alleviates stress by relaxing the body and mind.
  • Using the diaphragm while breathing out allows us to stabilize the lumbar spine - this is essential for weightlifting and core bodyweight movements.
  • Studies show that belly breathing can reduce lower back pain.  
  • Complete breathing may also help with recovery after exercise by reducing inflammatory hormones (cortisol) and increases levels of melatonin (a hormone intimately involved in regulating our sleeping and waking cycles.)
  • Deeper breathing into the diaphragm can increase athletic performance.
So by not using our diaphragms when breathing we may be shortcutting our body's own natural abilities to function efficiently on a basic level.

But, surely I can't be the only one who has forgotten how to breathe correctly.

Right?? Come on. Join me on the dark side of incompetence even if its just for fun. Its lonely over here.

How do YOU breathe? Lets see if you're as lame as me. I know. Impossible. So humor me.

Sit up straight or lay down on your back. Put one hand in the middle of your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. Take a BIG breath. Which hand moved first? The hand on your chest or the hand on your abdomen? Which hand would you say moved the most? Did your shoulders shrug at all?
When I first did this exercise my chest moved more than my abdomen. Chest breathing only uses the top lobes of the lungs and is highly inefficient. I pride myself on taking the hard route for most everything I do, but I had no idea I was making my body work more than it needs to just for air. Sheesh.

So if you are breathing efficiently or taking "complete" breaths you will first feel your belly filling with air and then your middle chest and rib cage expand. Complete breathing engages the lower, middle and upper lobes of the lungs and utilizes the muscles surrounding the diaphragm as well as rib cage. Over a lifetime, this technique will keep our chest and rib cage muscles from stiffening and may help us avoid respiratory problems as we age.

Who knew the way we breathe could be so important?

My new mantra: Straighten. Relax. Breathe.
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  1. Well, I utilized your "How do your breathe" instructions and here is what I came up with. I noticed the majority of the rising hand movement in my spleen?? I don't think i'm breathing right? or there is a gaping hole in my lung???

    1. Dude. Don't hurt yourself. Welcome to my lovely state of complete incompetence. :-)


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