I often get a funny look from new clients, when I tell them that before we dive into any exercise we need to first ensure they know how to breathe.
And I get it, they’re probably thinking “Hold on, I breathe every day and it happens without me even thinking, so what’s it to learn?”. Was that your initial thought too?
OK, I agree it’s something we all do without even thinking since the very day we came to this world. And most likely as a child, you could get those nice deep breaths with no problem – have you noticed when babies and children breathe you can see their little bellies rising and dropping. So, as a child, you probably had your breathing down packed, and as we grow and enter adulthood things can happen along the way impacting our breathing:
Stress – often causing shallow and short breaths
Posture – misaligned posture can cause us to slouch forward squashing our lungs and restrict their capacity
Diet – low fiber intake (such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes) is associated with reduced measures of lung function (US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2016)
Habits – such as smoking
Work – workplaces where there’s lots of dust or jobs that have a negative effect on posture like desk jobs and computer work.
Eyebrow Raising Stats
According to the Lung Foundation Australia, 1 in 3 Australians suffers from lung disease. Well, what if I told you that breathing exercises can help with management and recovery or even better can help prevent many lung diseases. Would that tickle your fancy?
You see our lungs are elastic, imagine them like two balloons under your ribs. Over time, however, they can lose their elasticity or be restricted by our posture. As a result, the lungs can’t contract and expand enough, causing air to get trapped in your lungs. Over time, stale air builds up, leaving less room for fresh oxygen (American Lung Association, 2020). That’s why breathing exercises can be so helpful. And when practiced regularly, breathing exercises can help rid the lungs of accumulated stale air.
One of the important aspects that I like to address is the breathing capacity (that’s a fancy term for being able to breathe deeply and then exhale fully). Joseph Pilates was a great advocate of that, he’s remembered for instructing his classes “you out the air so you can in the air”, that’s because he understood the importance of exhaling all the stale air so you can inhale fresh air. And the most important thing about deep breathing is that we live in such a stressful world, and deep breathing is such a great way of releasing stress. In fact, that’s why I start almost every class with a breathing exercise. Focusing on your breath and letting all other worries melt away as you become more and more present.
Deep Breathing Exercise
So I hope I’ve convinced you to work on your breathing and below I have created a simple exercise for you to try:
Do not begin the Deep Breathing Exercise, and contact your doctor, if:
– You have a fever
– You have any shortness of breath or difficulty breathing while resting
– You have any chest pain or palpitations (“fluttering” of the heart in the chest)
– You have new swelling in your legs.
Stop exercise if you develop any of the following symptoms:
– Dizziness or shortness of breath more than normal
– Chest pain or cool, clammy skin
– Excessive fatigue or irregular heartbeat
– Any symptoms you consider an emergency
– Contact 000 if these symptoms don’t stop with rest or if you experience any change in mental status from your normal capacity.
I’d love to hear from you, let me know how you found the breathing exercise in the comments below.
Breathing deeply and sending you lots of love,