Take a deep breath in though your nose. More…More… More… Great. Now, exhale. But only exhale about a 1/3rd of all of that air.
It’s a pretty silly and ineffective way of breathing, right? How about breathing that way if you were in a stressful environment such as during training? I’d argue that by only exhaling roughly 1/3rd of your air would only increase the onset of fatigue.
“Nothing will unravel an athlete faster than fatigue or fear of fatigue.” – Tony Blauer
Fatigue, to no surprise, will decrease performance and is a breeding ground for compensatory patterning, which evidentially sets you up for injury.
What you’ve done over the course of hundreds of thousands of billions of breaths and countless training sessions, without noticing of course, is created an easier position to move and breathe for the activities you do most. In the above example: running or sprinting.
Consistently and stressfully working within limited ranges will cultivate unorganized breathing mechanics and therefore unorganized movement.
If you’ve always ran with your head cocked back, your shoulders rounded and shrugged then you better bet that it’s going to be twice as hard to reestablish any thing resembling an ideal breathing/running pattern.
Take this example of two types of breathing, apical breathing vs. apical expansion. The former uses the accessory neck and upper trunk musculature to aid in respiration (sub-optimal), and the latter uses the originally designated muscles of the trunk to expand the ribcage and chest cavity (optimal):
Not sure which way you breathe? Take a breath in. What parts of your torso do you feel filling with air?
– Your neck?
– The left lower-ribs? Right lower-rib?
– Upper quadrant of your anterior ribs?
– Anywhere in the back of your ribs into the chair?
– Or…do you feel air rushing in circumferentially around your ribcage?
What you’d normally see, just like in the video above, are the huge muscles of the anterior neck (sternocleidomastoid and scalenes) become way over developed. Air fills the left lower anterior ribcage more than the right, as well as the right upper back. It may even seem as if the individuals are side-bending or leaning back and to the right slightly because of the increased tone on the right lower back. This usually happens in people who are “stuck” in a faulty breathing pattern referred to as a state of inhalation, hyperinflation, or extension.
This population has poor diaphragm function and usually presents with some sort of difficulty getting their arms overhead because of the lats always being ‘on’.
Since their lats are always ‘on’ you’d typically see their chest, or more notably their ribs, flaring outwards and a larger angle between the ribs and anterior pelvis (shown above).
What’s more is that these types of people usually take shallow breathes and never fully exhale. – Exactly like the example I gave at the beginning of this article.
Taking a look at the Postural Restoration Institute’s Postural Restoration course, being stuck in a state of inhalation, hyperinflation or over-extension (shown in the picture just above) cultivates the following:
Increased sympathetic “fight or flight” response
Impaired nerve conduction (aka ability to pass along signals)
Vasoconstrics peripheral and Gastrointestinal (GI) vessels
Restricts circulation in cerebral cortex (brain)
Shunts blood flow peripherally (to the arms and legs)
Impairs coronary arterial flow
Promote fatigue, weakness, irregular heart rate, etc.
Impairs breathing and weakens diaphragm contractility
Increases the overuse of “thoracic breathing”
Enhances peripheral neuropathic symptoms
Enhances sympathetic adrenaline activity and hypersensitivity to lights and sounds
Facilitates catastrophic thinking and hypochondria
This nasty list of outcomes helps shed light to the reality that someone’s ailments stem from their respiratory dysfunction. Their autonomics (nervous system) is dictating much of their dysfunction.
Recognizing and acknowledging the conflict of respiration and body position means we can intervene and put a stop to the life-plaguing symptoms mentioned in the list above. This is where breathing drills come into play to correct and restore movement, recovery rate, performance, etc.
If any of these symptoms or patterns ring home for you, you can use some of the following drills to help correct the dysfunction.
Even though these drills appear different, they all work together towards the same end-goal:
Establishing a neutral and organized pelvis, thorax, and cranium. This syncs up the pelvic diaphragm (aka pelvic floor), thoracic diaphragm (the one that drives respiration), as well as the lesser-known cervical and cranial diaphragms (located in the jaw/neck and inner skull).
This enables us to effectively teach a stabile and neutral spinal position that creates stability through the mid-section protecting our most valuable asset, the spinal chord (Central Nervous System).
To effectively lay a strong, stable platform from which to build accompanying trunk musculature. The result? Our lifts become bigger, better, stronger and faster!
Knowing all of this, do yourself a favor and take a deep breath in and exhale all the way out. The results may surprise you.