How Focusing On Your Breathing Can Improve Your Fitness
Breathing is a unique process in the human body. It can occur voluntarily or involuntarily and be a conscious or unconscious decision. Breathing also constantly responds to feedback from sensors in your body. Our breath can be stifled by our emotional state, body position, or posture.
Posture and breath
When you inhale your diaphragm contracts and moves downward expanding the chest cavity and giving the lungs space to expand. This simultaneously lifts the ribs and sternum. When you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and expands into the chest cavity as the ribs and sternum lower.
The key muscles or primary movers in this process are the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, and abdominal muscles. Secondary mover muscles include upper trapezius, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, and pectoralis minor.
These secondary movers can become tight and overworked if you have bad posture. Poor posture is categorized by rounded shoulders and a forward head position. This can lead to a decline in respiratory function and can exacerbate breathing muscles and contribute to even worse posture.
To jump start your muscles involved in breathing try this stretching and breath practice:The Abdominal Vacuum.
Wondering why you should worry about your breath when it’s so easy you can do it in your sleep?
Let’s start with the the one we all care about
A study at the University of Portsmouth showed that runners who performed inspiratory muscle warm-ups and training, experienced 15% increase in performance after 6 weeks.
Bringing a mindful focus to breath can also help improve energy. Individuals who practice deep breathing exercises report more energy, improved mental acuity, and better sleep.
An improvement in breath capacity will lead to a healthier digestive tract. The body has more energy to divide towards digestion and is more efficient at eliminating toxins.
Breathing techniques designed to bring increased awareness the breath can carry over to other areas of life. It trains the mind to be less emotionally reactive while simultaneously reducing cortisol levels.
Breathing practice has been shown to lower resting heart rate and blood pressure. Try deep belly breaths where the stomach fully expands and holding it at the full exhalation and inhalation points.
Many breathing techniques focus on unwinding, shutting down, and moving away from the flight or fight response we are used to feeling. Breathwork also has many powerful applications to get us fired up and improve our understanding of its effects on the body.
When lifting heavy weights, a full belly breath can be held inside the abdomen throughout the lift. The Valsalva Maneuver provides internal pressure, supporting the spine and bracing the skeletal muscle throughout the lift. Limit this maneuver for maximal exertion efforts (eg. greater than 80% of your 1RM and 5 reps or less in your working set).
Breathing can also be used to prime your body into a peak state. Using rapid forced inhales and exhales through the nostrils stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and leave you feeling alive, alert, and awake.
Now that you know a little about how breathing affects the systems of your body, what areas do you want to incorporate a breathing practice into? Whether its for health, relaxation, or to improve athletic performance we could all benefit from taking a deep breath now and then!
Schedule your free One on One Consult with us here!