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Breathing affects movement.  It is necessary for technique.  But it isn’t enough to just be aware of your breath.  Used properly, breathing can enhance your workout and produce increases in strength, endurance, and flexibility.

 

Breathing forms the foundation upon which all other movements can be built.  If you can’t breathe while still what makes you expect you can breathe while active?  

 

Breathing is one of those physiological acts that is both voluntary and involuntary.  It’s possible that when we stop thinking about it, breathing becomes easier.  It’s possible that simply bringing awareness to the act of breathing causes it to become disordered.  However, if the pattern is already disordered, as with many of us, it needs to be corrected.  As a culture we breathe just enough to stay alive.

 

First, Sit Quietly and Observe Your Breath

Close your eyes and observe your breath.  Go ahead, do it now.

Are you breathing through your nose?  Your mouth?  Does your chest rise or your belly?  How’s your posture?  Where do you notice the breath enter your body?  Does it reach your toes?  What happens in your head when you inhale?  Do you feel lighter?

Now, set a timer for 1-minute.  Sit quietly and observe your breath again.

How do you feel?

Everything begins with the breath.  Breath is life.  Our duty as humans is to enhance our self- awareness.  The breath is where we start.  

Make your breathing visible by the way you move your body.  Never force a breathing pattern onto yourself.  Make it feel easy and develop your breathing as you would any other practice or pattern.

Notes –

  • Breathing rapidly is a concern and can quickly lead to hyperventilation or in extreme cases, passing out.  
  • Whistling, puffing out the cheeks, or breathing out explosively; although used in powerlifting, is not appropriate for lifting more than a few repetitions. 
  • In most cases holding the breath compromises one’s ability to lift safely and efficiently.  Unless instructed otherwise by a competent coach, keep breathing throughout your lifts.

 

The art of Full Body Breathing

Also called Diaphragmatic Breathing or Transverse Abdominal (TVA) Breathing is generally the first type of breathing we instruct in a training program.  Many clients come in as chest breathers, inhaling deeply into the rib cage, represented as a shoulder shrug upon inhale.  This type of breathing is weak and shallow.

With a Full Body Breath your belly expands upon inhale.  Try this:

Sit tall on the edge of your chair.  Maintain an erect spine position.  Place one hand on your chest at the sternum and the other hand on your belly just below your ribs.  Exhale all your air by squeezing your stomach muscles a bit.  Sense your diaphragm pushing up as you do, squeezing the air up and out of you.  Without being forceful, push out as much of the air as you can until you feel your lungs are empty.

Next, relax the stomach muscles while breathing in naturally, filling the lungs with air.  Allow the lungs to expand outward, back, up, but also down into your hands, filling the torso like a balloon.  Be mindful not to force this inhalation or you will miss the effect.  It is a subtle filling, like a vacuum or a bellows pulling air in.  The action is the pulling air in.  The result is that the torso fills like a balloon.  Don’t miss the point for the result.  Sense the air filling your lungs.

Once your abdomen feels full, exhale and repeat the sequence.

  • A note of caution: If you start to feel lightheaded, stop and practice again tomorrow.

Inhale so that your belly rises and your hand floats away from your spine.  Once the belly has filled to about 60%, the chest raises.  Your whole torso should expand with each inhale.  The initial movement occurs below the ribs around the organs.  Upon exhale, the chest falls before the belly.  

Your power comes from your center, around the navel.  Your anchor is here.  Bring your awareness to this center.  Bring your breath into it and use it to generate power out toward your arms and legs.  The chinese talk about the Dantien, the Japanese call it the Hara, just below the navel around the area of the sacral chakra.  Breathe into that space, ground down like roots, extend from your feet to the center of the earth, and establish a solid base from which you can dynamically move.

Should you breathe through the nose or the mouth?

A simple cue to breathe in through the nose, out through the nose is an easy way to focus on the task at hand.  It also provides less air to the lungs so be aware that this pattern is not recommended for high endurance, strength, or power movements.  Maintain the same torso pattern as with TVA breathing.

Keep your mouth open slightly and breathe IN when your chest is at its most expanded (like at the top of the kettlebell swing or lat pulldown) and breathe OUT when your chest collapses (like at the bottom of the kettlebell swing or lat pulldown).

Open mouth breathing brings the most possible amount of air into the lungs.  It is appropriate when breath holding compromises the ability to lift safely and efficiently and you need to keep breathing throughout your lifts such as for endurance training like kettlebell lifting, running, cycling, swimming, etc.

 

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