Breathing and posture key foundations

Breathing

Breathing

Breathing is something we do everyday and although it is an automatic process for most, being mindful of how to change your breath can improve your mood and have other physiological benefits.

  • Relaxed efficient breathing requires less effort and gives you more energy.
  • Breathing through the nose will regulate the correct air intake and activate a physiological response (the parasympathetic system) that reduces stress levels.
  • Good posture enables you to breathe more effectively and efficiently. The upper neck and shoulders should be relaxed when breathing comfortably.
  • Various forms of exercise have their own breathing techniques. The important thing to remember is simply not to hold your breath when exercising.

For most types of exercise, aim to breathe out with effort, so for the hardest part of the exercise which is often the lifting part you need to exhale. Also aim to breathe through your nose, however if your exercise intensity increases then mouth-breathing will naturally occur. When working on core stabilising exercises aim to maintain a relaxed breathing pattern. Holding your breath when performing core exercise will increase intra abdominal pressure, your core muscle won’t stabilise and your efforts will be  wasted! Exercise types such as Yoga, utilise breathing with movement patterns. Generally the breathe in corresponds to upwards movements, and the breathe out occurs with downward movements. This type of breathing pattern helps with movement patterning and body rhythm. Nasal breathing (through the nose) is also practised, which is why Yoga is known to reduce stress.

Try these exercises with a focus on breathing and posture, a lengthening through the spine, but not with a rigid position:

  • Sit comfortably, place the hands across your abdomen, one above the other then inhale as your diaphragm descends(belly should push out a little). Your hands should move slightly apart and come together as you exhale. Repeat for five breaths, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • Take a long breath out through the mouth (like a long sigh) to reduce upper shoulder tension, repeat three times
  • Breathe in through the nose for the count of 4, then out for the count of 4 either with pursed lips so as  to make a narrow escape for the breath or with your Yoga breath. If you are someone who holds your breath, start with breathing in for the count of 2 then out for the count of 4.
  • Box Breathing Breathing in for count of 4 then hold the breath for the count of 4, then exhale for count of 4 and pause for count of 4 before inhaling again. It is good to register the pause between the inhale and the exhale

Breathing and Stress:

  • In stressful situations it is good to concentrate on your relaxed breathing. Good breathing technique will have an autonomic effect, reducing cortisol production – the stress hormone, and improve endorphin production – the ‘feel good hormone’.
  • Breathe out through pursed lips, pause, let your lips come together, then let your body breathe in for you. Make the breathe out last longer than the breathe in.
  • It may be helpful to have 3 audible(loud) sighs to reduce tension in your body before you commence your breathing awareness exercises. This will reduce the upper chest breathing pattern and raised shoulders which is often associated with stressful situations. Practice your breathing drill in a variety of situations so that it will become automatic during the day.