We breathe roughly 20,000 times a day. The way in which we breathe has influences on our nervous system, cardiovascular system, postural orientation and movement patterns, among others. That means we have the ability to improve all these systems by simply… breathing. Do you have a tight neck or low back? Do a lot of cardio but still get short of breath relatively easily? Have anxiety or a hard time being able to wind down and fully relax?
Athlete, couched-potato, cross-fitter, weekend warrior, grandparent, no matter who you are or your goals – we can all benefit from restoring our ability to breathe efficiently and get our bodies in a better position.
Let’s start off by discussing the main player – the diaphragm, attached behind the ribs with attachments down to our lumbar (low back) spine. When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts, descends, flattens out and pulls the air in. When we exhale, it goes back up and returns to its domed position. This domed position we achieve when we exhale, provides it the ability to contract effectively when we inhale. However, many of us lose this domed position and are stuck in a state of inhalation or hyperinflation!
What is Hyperinflation?
- Your ribs are flared out + your diaphragm is stuck in a descended and flat position. Your diaphragm now has a hard time getting air in for you, and starts to act as a stabilizer of the spine and pulls you into extension (think arching your back).
- Creates an imbalance in the oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and can lead to hypocapnea (click on “Hyperinflation” link to learn more).
How does it affect me?
- Your diaphragm needs help getting air in, so it recruits your neck muscles, upper traps and low back to help! Ever feel these muscles get tight during or after doing exercise or cardio?
- Stuck in a sympathetic state – “fight or flight” mode and anxiousness
- You get stuck in a pattern of extension! This means a loss in movement variability, and leads to a loss in your ability to move in all 3 planes (causing more compensations and problems). This state of extension can be great for lifting heavy weights, but isn’t great when it’s the only movement strategy you have.
Signs you may NOT be breathing correctly:
- YOU BELLY BREATHE. When you breathe in you fill your belly with air, not your chest. Despite the fact your lungs are located in your chest, not your belly.
- YOU LIFT YOUR RIBCAGE. Rather than expanding it 3-dimensionally, you lift it. If you take a breath of air in and your shoulders move closer to your ears, you’re lifting it.
- YOU ARCH YOUR BACK. This may not be as noticeable at rest, but after working out you may notice yourself arching your back more to create space to get more air in.
- YOU MOUTH BREATHE. This alone deserves another blog post, but to sum it up – no bueno. Nasal breathing increases circulation, slows breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes.
- YOU DON’T EXHALE. If you can take a long deep breath in but your exhale doesn’t last nearly half as long, you don’t exhale.
Restore your ability to breathe effectively and unlock movement variability.
Bring your ribcage and pelvis back into a better position by learning to use your:
- Transverse Abdominis
- Serratus Anterior
Our lungs and ribcage need to move 3-dimensionally! Think about blowing up a balloon – if when you blew it up only the bottom, front part of it filled with air it wouldn’t be a very effective balloon. The same goes for our lungs, we need to be able to inhale air into our chest, our sides and back as well. The following exercises will help better position you to maximize your respiration by incorporating the muscles listed above!
90-90 Hip Lift – (click on name to watch instructional video) Inhale through your nose. Exhale all the way out through your mouth. Pause for 3 seconds before inhaling again through your mouth. Perform 4 sets of 4 breaths.
Modified All 4 Belly Lift – (click on name to watch instructional video) Inhale through your nose. Exhale all the way out through your mouth. Pause for 3 seconds before inhaling again through your mouth. Perform 4 sets of 4 breaths.
If you want to learn how to fully restore your ability to breathe effectively and unlock movement variability, to improve how you move and perform – reach out to us to see how we can help you, or schedule your appointment now! Don’t let pain or discomfort get in the way of you feeling or performing at your best.
You get roughly 20,000 opportunities a day to breath effectively, make the most of them!