We want workouts that are quick, food that is fast, and TV shows that are dramatic. But what do all of these things do to our breath? Our bodies? Have you ever noticed? Well, you should. Either you control your bodies’ reaction to the environment or the environment will control you. Either way something is in control, so it might as well be you.
If our body is always reacting to a stressful environment, our breath is always stressed and the body follows. This is the pecking order, the process to which our environment shapes us, but we can reverse this control. Breath follows the mind and the body follows the breath. However, our breath can be controlled by thought thus transforming the body, we are reversing the effect; remember this, it is important.
Our bodies are waiting for us to take control in the adaption process, begin to program the nervous system with purpose. When our breath is reversed your body is always switched on (sympathetic state/ fight or flight) and you are depriving yourself of what your body wants most, oxygen. Over time the constant lack of oxygen adds up, resulting in areas of the body not getting enough and then become dis-eased and inactive, this is translated into chronic pain and tightness, headaches, emotional distress, and much more.
What is a reversed breathing pattern?
A reversed breathing pattern is when your inhale will only go into the top of the lungs and as you exhale the belly will expand or not move at all. It should be the opposite. When you inhale, the belly expands (like glass of water, the bottom should fill first), when you exhale the muscles of the core squeeze in and up towards the spine. You are not sucking in your stomach; you are tensing in a straight line up the spine, not curved in like a crunch.
How do you know if your breathing pattern is reversed?
You will place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Close your eyes then take the longest and biggest inhale you can, hold for about 5 seconds, notice what is tight and what area of the torso you filled with air. Exhale and relaaaaax. Repeat a few more times.
How many seconds where you able to inhale?
Did the inhale go into your chest and raise your shoulders?
Lets take another breath, really big inhale and hold for about 5 seconds. Exhale and relax.
Still go to the shoulders and chest? Then your breathing pattern has been reversed. Don’t worry it will be ok. You will have control soon enough!
For those of you who are able to easily breathe into the belly, good. You have the tool, now to polish it up and use it with purpose. The easier the exercise, the more powerful and effective you are in controlling your mind and body. Who said everything had to be hard? Let’s see what it is like to press the easy button.
Why is it reversed?
Back to the pecking order, if our mind perceives stress, mental, physical, or in our environment, our breath follows suit and shortens or is held, you begin to breath upwards, using your shoulders and neck to breathe or even holding your breath. How many times have you caught yourself holding your breath? Think about how many of those types of breaths we take in a day. Our bodies are always adapting, so if we are always breathing in this way our bodies will think that it is normal.
Our bodies are molding and adapting to our environments. We must take ahold of the process and control our body’s reaction to stress in our environment; we have control of our bodies. Now lets act like it.
What does this mean for my body?
So what does this mean? If we are always using the muscles of the neck and shoulders to breathe, the muscles become tight and over worked. When a muscle is tight there is less room for the nerves. The nerves of the neck affect the shoulders and arms, possibly causing chronic pain, numbness, bulging or slipped discs, as well as imbalanced emotions that correspond with the energy center (chakra) in that region. Then we also have the low back, if the diaphragm and muscles of the core are not doing their job (to help push air out of the bottom of the lungs), they are inactive. If a muscle is inactive then that means another muscles is doing the job. So now you have inactive and over active muscles, causing bones to shift and become misaligned. The muscles of the lower body that usually end up doing all the work are the hamstrings, gluts, hip flexors, and low back. Remember, the abdomen is where all the organs are, the organs want blood flow, movement, nutrients, when we bring breath into the belly we do just that. Then guess what happens? The muscles are active, organs are happy, bones aligned, emotions balanced, life is more than good because you are not in pain.
How can I change it back?
Use your imagination. Imagery is the key to creating the connection to the muscles that are not active. We must first imagine what it would feel like and look like to breath into your belly. Be careful not to fill you mind with "I can't" or"this is hard". This will just slow down the learning process.
Imagery is one of the first subjects my sports psych professor spoke of in grad school. It was so fascinating to me that subjects could just PICTURE themselves lifting weight and seeing a physical increase in strength, though just a small percentage increase, there was still an increase! Power of the mind!!!
Work on the exhale. The inhale should be relaxing the belly out, but if the muscle is not contracted then how will it know to relax? The exhale should be connected to the abs (this is step one, more instructions will come at a further date).
Place you hands over your belly and cough. Go ahead, do it. If you actually coughed not just politely like a small little girl, you should have felt the muscles of your core press in and up as you coughed/exhaled. That is how your core works; this is the foundation for core strength. The core helps press air out from the bottom of the lungs. The rib cage helps press air from the top of the lungs (Will go into this in another post).
For some this may take some time to connect. Be patient. If you stress about it not going to the right place you are just making it worse. Don’t let your mind take over, just imagine and repeat. We are looking for aaahhhaaa moments. It will click, I promise.
When you are able to re-align your breathing patterns you are then able to access the power of the breath to heal and give you strength. It is only just the beginning. Enjoy...