Inefficient and Efficient Breathing

Breathing, so natural yet controversial

Breathing is the most natural phenomenon in this extraordinary event called life and is basic to all living beings.

You can unconsciously stop eating for days but you cannot unconsciously stop breathing for days. Yet, it is possible to consciously suspend the breath for 20 min. Yogis can do it, and so can a man named Stig Severinsen, the founder of Breatheology.

Training your breathing is valuable, no doubt, but I also want to seriously point out that we must tread carefully when we try to interfere with any natural process of life; whether it be breathing, digesting or reproducing. However, what we definitely can and should do, is to learn how to get those things out of the way, which interfere with the natural processes of life.

Side Effects of Breathing

The following side effects can be triggered by breathing exercises and at the same time interfere with the act of breathing.

  • Anxiety
  • Acid reflux
  • Tight and constricted chest
  • Faulty posture
  • Shoulder and neck tenseness
  • Rigid abdominal muscles
  • The chronic tug-of-war between the needs of the heart and the wants of the mind.

Unfortunately, any attempt to breathe correctly when following breathing instructions, whether it be in fitness studios, schools, or anywhere else, is bound to fail, because the usual kinds of breathing instructions trigger the stimulus that causes unwanted breathing side effects. One of these side effects, as mentioned above, is anxiety. Anxiety often accompanies the act of “thinking of breathing”, which is the usual way of learning to breathe.

Learn to Breathe Without Thinking of Breathing

For full control and development in breathing, you need not even think of breathing at all. All you need to do is to learn how to correctly expand, release, and contract your chest wall. In theory it looks like this: When we inhale, the pressure in the lungs increases while at the same time the muscles which inhibit the mobility of the chest release. When we exhale, the muscles responsible for contracting the chest wall are triggered in order to exert pressure on the lungs. It is important to remember that the pressure on the lungs needs to be exerted within the lungs and not on the outside of the lungs. So, in exhalation, the release of the pressure needs to come from the muscles of the lungs. Not to mention, the in-breath is a result of the active out-breath. Now, to you!

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Try this exercise: Learn to breathe without thinking of breathing. Tie a scarf around your chest. Expand the sides of your ribcage against the scarf. Allow your ribcage to expand for 5 seconds, and then slowly release it for another 5 seconds.

This way you are exercising the first step in learning to breathe without triggering the stimulus that causes those undesirable breathing side effects.

What did we learn?

Efficient breathing, especially while performing Pilates exercises, consists of a reflective in-breath and an active out-breath. The effort should be placed on the out-breath and not on the in-breath. If the effort is on the in-breath, then movement, flow, rhythm and muscular tension will be inhibited. Most importantly, nasty breathing side effects can be cut out by learning to breathe without thinking of breathing.

Try it and fly with it!