The topic of breathing has become a hot button for some in the recent weeks. I have found myself in numerous conversations with people who want to start a breathing practice of their own but are not quite sure where to begin. My best advice is to focus on consistency and start small. Often times, we try to implement new habits into your lifestyle in hopes of creating change, only find out that we have only added to our stress levels and feel discouraged.
What is priority number one?
In my personal experience, I found that in order to maintain my breath practice, I had to intentionally carve time out of my day. I had to be alone and be able to observe my breathing. If you are sitting down reading this blog, try this: without adjusting position or moving around, take a full inhale and a full exhale. What happened? Did you chest rise first when you took a deep breath? Or did your belly expand first followed by your chest? If you said yes to the second, give yourself five points! Let's continue. Now observe your position for the next ten breaths: what are you breathing with? Your nose or your mouth? If you find yourself breathing through your mouth, taking in small, shallow chest breaths with a slightly rounded back, you are in the wrong position. In my opinion (and in the opinion of a few other dudes much smarter than me), around 80% of the population breath incorrectly. I personally have polled my loved ones and even some of you at the gym with this same drill and the results reflected that statistic.
How do I fix this?
The simple answer is mobilize. If we start mobilizing and focusing on our positions, we will inevitably begin to learn how to breathe in an efficient, effective way. So below is my protocol you can try out for the next two weeks. Start with one stretch and two movements for the next two weeks. If you devote 10 minutes a day, three to four times a week to this protocol, we will call attention to what needs work and improve our positions. And improved positions means improved breathing.
Two Week Movement and Breathing Protocol
- Stretching with breath work: couch stretch for three minutes on each leg. Only go as far up as you can maintain a strong neutral spine and keep your glutes contracted. While stretching, take deep, full inhales and exhales through your nose ONLY. Make your exhales a bit longer than your inhales.
- Russian KB swings with breath work: Pick a lightweight kettle bell and sync your movement with your breath. For two minutes, perform continuous swings, inhaling only when your hips are loaded with the bell and exhaling only when your hips are fully extended. If you find yourself out of rhythm, simply set the kettle bell down, take a deep breath and start again. Perform three 2 minute intervals with as much rest as needed between sets.
Back Squats with breath work: Grab a barbell and put it in the rack. No weight will be needed for this exercise! Once the bar is on your back, take a big inhale and a big exhale. Notice your breath expanding throughout your chest and back. Now, perform 10 squats, pausing to take a full inhale and exhale every time you are in the bottom of the squat. If you are able to breathe fully while in the bottom of the squat, adjust your position to find the lowest point at which you can breathe. Consistency in this will help reinforce your position and ultimately help you achieve a lower bottom point that still allows you to breathe.
Try this out for two weeks and see if you notice a difference when you workout, especially in your breathing. I am positive you will find some holes (I did in all three tests) and have a place to bgein your focus.
I would also like to invite all of you to join me on Saturday, April 1st, from 11:15am - 1:15pm at Kingfield. I will be doing a more in-depth discussion about breathing and introduce you to new methods and techniques you can use in your own practice.