I teach people how to breathe and coordinate breathing with exercise for a living, of course it makes sense to me. However, for many people correct breathing is counter intuitive. Common mistakes include no movement of the belly, pushing the muscles out instead of drawing in and holding the breath.
What should you be working on to build a foundation for correct breathing?
- Rib cage expansion. Pay attention to how the rib cage expands with normal breathing. There is movement in 4 directions (forward, backward, left/right). Most of us can feel a restriction in one of these movements and if we pay attention we can try to encourage more movement. There is also a gentle rise and fall of the chest wall.
- Seamless cycling of the breath. The inhalation and exhalation should flow one into the next. This means when you breathe in you should avoid holding your breath before your exhalation.
- Movement of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle responsible for breathing. It is a dome shaped muscle that attaches to the rib cage and the spine. On inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and descends into the abdominal cavity. On exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and ascends to its resting position.
- What happens to the belly with breathing? There should be movement of the belly with breathing. The belly rises with the inhalation as the diaphragm descends and the abdominal contents move forward. The belly falls on exhalation as the diaphragm ascends and the abdominal contents return to their resting position. Inhalation should be relaxed and not forced to avoid pushing outwards as the breath goes into the belly. On the exhalation with the body’s natural flattening, is where you want to coordinate your strengthening and the inward pull of the abdominals.
- What happens to the pelvic floor? The movement of the pelvic floor mirrors the movement of the diaphragm. The pelvic floor descends with inhalation and lengthens with tone to support the pelvic contents. The pelvic floor rises with exhalation and the muscles shorten as they lift. On the exhalation with the natural rise of the pelvic floor is where you want to coordinate your pelvic floor contraction.
It takes practice to put all the pieces together and coordinate the breath with exercise.
There are other factors to consider that make breathing challenging:
- Tight muscles
- Being disconnected from your body
- Difficulty breathing in general from sinus issues
- Deviated Septum
Practice correct breathing, a few minutes every day. Close your eyes and pay attention to the breath. This will create awareness. The more aware you are it will translate to your daily activities and become more natural. Be a little more aware of your breath next time you are at the gym or taking an exercise class.
Do you have a question? Ask Solange by email or comment below.