This past weekend I hosted a two hour seminar on my experience over the last 18 months with my breathing practice. Going in I had a general game plan of what I wanted cover, however my main goal was to begin a conversation about how incorporating breath practice into our daily routine cannot only benefit us inside the gym, but also in most areas that concern our day to day lives. The common question that I get most days when I talk about breathing is, “how can I use this to get better at ______?” In the beginning I felt like I had a scripted answer locked down that would sell anyone on the idea of taking time to sit and inhale a little more O2. But as most things go in life, the further you get down the rabbit hole, the more you realize that you don’t in fact know as much as you thought you once did.
Where to start?
About a month ago I took a break from blogging about breathing. I did this because I was continuing to find myself staring at the computer with half a blog written, not knowing how to wrap up my current thought process, all the while feeling like I wasn't doing a good enough job explaining the current topic I was blogging about.
Call it what you want, but it took me awhile to realize that the reason I was having so much trouble writing about breathing was because I never established a clear starting point in which everyone can work off of. If we want to see how something works we need to have a test/re-test (credit to Ryan Kiernan on that one). Being able to measure something new against our original starting point, allows us to actually see the practical benefit - as a culture we have moved into this idea of practicality or nothing, which at times blocks us from any form of actual progress. So the question than becomes, do we fight this idea of practical application, or do we embrace it and work with it? My thought is that we have to embrace the idea of showing practical application if we want it to stick with us. Plain and simple.
The idea of mindfulness.
Now I am only going to talk in the context of human performance going forward. I would love to focus my blogs on the esoteric, hippie hippie aspects of breathing, but I think I will probably lose most of you (if you want to have those conversations please do no hesitate to ask). Over the coming weeks each of my blogs will build on the previous week, complimenting and continuing the conversation. This will be a way for us to keep a consistent theme running and take time to unpack the whole topic of breathing.
So I am sure you are asking what then is the starting point at which we can begin to see a practical benefit from breathing? My answer is this - mindfulness. In order to progress at all, in any form, we have to have to become a mindful athlete. Mindfulness means that we have patience; we are willing to wait for the benefits of our training, and understand that training (in any context) has a plan and reason. Mindfulness also means that we are okay with the idea that in order to move forward consistently, we recognize that at times we have to work on fine tuning the areas that create the most distress or difficulty for us. And lastly, mindfulness means that we are okay with the uncertainty of not always knowing the outcome. Our training is not defined by the end result, rather it is the process (the day to day act of training) that defines us.
So let’s talk practical benefit. This week I challenge you all to take 5 minutes every day and just observe your breathing. The only ground rules are that you must lie down on the floor, with hands over your stomach, and observe your chest rise and fall as you breathe. This is a great place to start because you are working on calming your mind and being in tune with the changes that may happen with your body on a day to day basis. Next week I will begin giving you a plan to begin understanding how we can incorporate breathing drills and exercises, but for this week just take some time for yourself and breathe.