Breathing is something we often underestimate. We may not realize that our breath can have a positive impact on various aspects of our health and life. Meanwhile, the ability to consciously and deeply breathe, managing our breath, can help us a lot.
1. The diaphragm is the primary tool for breathing. It is located behind the ribs, contracts during inhalation, and relaxes during exhalation. But there is another organ that performs the opposite function. Pelvic diaphragm contracts during inhalation, making space for the thoracic diaphragm, and lifts during exhalation, aiding in the release of air from the lungs. Proper breathing exercises can connect these muscles, benefiting the pelvic floor and core
2. The chest plays an active role in breathing. It expands, aligning the spine and correcting posture. Issues arise when shoulders slouch or hyper lordosis occurs, leading to shallow breathing. Correcting this pattern enhances breathing depth, straightening the spine. A straight spine supports proper breathing, creating a self-sustaining loop.
3. Deep breathing has a calming effect. We receive more oxygen, signalling to our body that there's no danger, and it's okay to relax and unwind. There's also a reverse pattern: rapid chest breathing (often accompanied by raised shoulders) signals danger, prompting a fight-or-flight response. Monitoring and consciously slowing down and deepening breath over time becomes a habit, aiding stress regulation and reducing anxiety.
4. As mentioned earlier, breathing is connected to the pelvic floor. This is why it's crucial to pay attention to how you breathe during workouts. It's especially important during core exercises. However, even in training other parts of the body, proper breathing can significantly ease the situation. Holding your breath restricts movement, causing muscle strain and hindering free motion. Exhaling during effort (lifting a dumbbell, rising from a squat, etc.) significantly eases the workout and makes it more mindful and effective.
5. Those familiar with singing or acting likely heard about the diaphragm. Deep breathing helps us "lower" our voice, making it deeper and louder. This comes in handy in everyday life, as you won't run out of breath when speaking and will be able to better control your voice.
Here are a few simple breathing exercises. No equipment is necessary, but if desired, you can use a bathrobe belt, cord, or long resistance band.
Lie on the floor with bent knees, placing hands on your ribs or threading the belt under them, crossing it in front for slight pressure. Breathe where your hands are or where you feel pressure from the belt, ensuring movement in 360 degrees. Pay attention on back ribs as they should push the floor down. If using a band, let the ribs push it on inhale and gently squeeze it on exhale with your hands. After a few minutes, place hands on your stomach or belt under your pelvis just where your ilium bones are. Breath into your stomach without forcing it. Feel the band compression on exhale and the slight push on inhale.
After a few minutes, position one hand on your stomach and the other on your ribs. Commence breathing from the bottom up: first, allow air to fill the lower abdomen, then let it expand through the diaphragm up to the ribs. Exhale using both the abdomen and the ribs. Aim for 10-20 breathing cycles in this manner.
Initially, you might notice minimal movement in the ribs or abdomen, or pain/tickles while touching these areas. However, with time, this discomfort will diminish, and your body will naturally relearn the correct breathing pattern, happening seamlessly without your conscious control.