On average you take 12-20 breaths per minute. That is 17-28 thousand breaths per day and many of us do it so mindlessly. Taking for granted one of the very things that keeps us ALIVE.
When a first responder checks for signs of life what is the first they look for? Signs of breath. When you bring your newborn home from the hospital and they sleep for six hours what do you check for? A rising/falling chest… breath. When you feel pain? Breathe. When you’re having an anxiety attack? Breathe. When a woman gives birth? Breathe. When you feel stressed? Breathe. Just received tragic news? Breathe. You can’t even lift weights effectively if you’re not breathing properly. If you’re not breathing in your sleep, they hook you up to a CPAP machine.
How many times have you heard someone say to you “Just breathe”? I’m alllll “Uhhh, I am.” 😉
We do it thousands of times per day without ever thinking about it, so just why is “just breathing” the answer to so many really important things?
Breath is life.
For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.
– Sanskrit Proverb
(Before I go on, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about breath right now, huh? This post has been sitting in my drafts for weeks, but I had two clients this morning that forced me to step back and talk about the basics of breathing. FST revolves around the breath. Each stretch I do, I am working with your breath. I am working with your nervous system, and my breath is in sync with yours. It is so subtle that you will not even be aware of it, but if you are a nervous first-timer, I’m going to slow down, back up and we are going to work on breathing so that you can relax enough to let me in. All I wanna do is just give your fascia some lovin, but you’ve got to breathe in order for me to do so.)
I recently attended a class for something unrelated to breathing (but sort of related), and the instructor spent a lot of time going over the mechanics of breathing. She had a student lie on the floor and breathe. Just breathe. His chest rose and fell. What she was looking for was whether he was breathing in his belly (as we all should) and he was not. She coached him for about 10 minutes on how to breathe in his belly and he literally worked up a sweat just trying to breathe correctly. JUST breathing.
To test how you breathe, lie flat on your back on a floor or bed. Place your right hand in the middle of your belly and your left hand in the middle of your chest. Take a deep inhale through your nose. Which hand rises? I’m going to guess it was your left hand, the hand on your chest. You’re breathing “wrong”.
Try it again, and focus on making your belly and your right hand rise. Focus on breathing into your belly until it just happens. If you’ve been a chest breather, you will fall back into that habit so I challenge you to become mindful of your breath and begin to change that habit of becoming a belly breather. Driving in your car, sitting at your desk, walking through a door… be mindful of your breath. Even if just for a few seconds, take those few seconds several times a day.
When we breathe with our chest we hold in (tighten) our belly in order for our chest to rise, but how far can it really go inside of our rib cage?! We have been taught for our whole lives (especially women) to “suck it in”? Belly breathing is literally the opposite, and with a proper and full belly breath I can look/feel like I’m nine months pregnant. Not at all sexy!
Chest breathing increases tension in your body as you hold in your belly, and your shoulders lift. It’s no wonder when we are stressed our breath increases and we breath faster and faster, never fully inhaling or exhaling and then our stress level rises even more and heart rate increases and the cycle of stress and/or anxiety is perpetual.
You not only need a full breath of fresh oxygen, but you need, need, need to exhale the “used up” oxygen that has already filtered through your body.
Exhalation is as important as inhalation. Be mindful of both.
Recognize this most important action – breathing – that your body does day in and day out. Recognize how amazing it is that we don’t even notice something that literally keeps us alive.
Feel stressed? Anxious? Tight? Stop what you’re doing and breath deep into your belly and exhale all the way until there is no more breath to give. Do this five times and then resume your activities.
You may find that you need to do this several times a day… do it. But I highly recommend that you do this exercise before you get out of bed in the morning and when you get into bed at night. Over time, it can/will have great physical and mental/emotional results.
JUST BREATHE. And drink a lot of water. Water is also life, but that’s for another post. 🙂
My friend, and amazing mentor, Ashly put together this great video on breathing mindfully. Take just five minutes to check it out! She practices in Arizona so reach out to her if you need some fascia lovin.