The Art of Breathing
Anyone who comes to my classes will know that I pay massive respect to breathe and that breathwork is a big part of the class. In western culture when we think of breathing we usually think of VO2 max tests and oxygen concentrations and measurements. Like anything else, breathing is a skill. It is a movement and something we take for granted. Correcting your breathing pattern is often the key to overcoming chronic pain, neck tension, and unlocking limitless strength. Here at Platinum, we know how important your breathing is to your health.
Breathing is always prioritised by the nervous system.
Your brain knows how to breathe through certain postures. If you take your body into a new position, it can become difficult to coordinate the movement of the ribs and diaphragm to pull air into your lungs. The brain in its evolutionary glory will try to simplify things, and take you back into an easier posture to breathe more efficiently. This may be rounding your back in a squat, or hitching your shoulders in a plank. Take home message: If you cannot breathe through a pose or a position, you do not own the position, and the body will divert back to old and easier habits eventually. In order to develop Herculean strength, you must learn to keep your cool and breath through the movement.
Shallow breathing can contribute to stiffness and tension.
Our primary breathing muscle is the diaphragm. Like a big sheet under our lungs that contracts, it creates a vacuum and drags air into our lungs. When the diaphragm muscle is dysfunctional, we rely on our accessory breathing muscles around our neck and shoulders to drag the ribcage upwards, pulling air in. If this continues, it can create chronic tension and lead to pain and discomfort around the neck and shoulders.
Poor breathing patterns physiologically induces stress.
Breathing with our accessory muscles and into our chest stimulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone stimulates the fight or flight response and when we are chronically overexposed to it can lead to anxiety, exhaustion and burn-out. Diaphragmatic breathing is thought to increase parasympathetic nervous activity in the body which is what allows us to feel more relaxed and in control.
Correcting your breathing pattern is not difficult. Begin to pay attention to your breathing in class. Allow your body to release tension, your mind to relax and continue on the road to deeper holistic wellbeing and higher levels of force development and strength.