I think of breathing in two different ways, after we acknowledge that breathing is mandatory for life and air always enters into the lungs.
#1: I use breath in a way that helps me to harness my reflexive core in exercise or to manage load (think picking up your grandchild).
#2: I use breathing as a practice when lying down or seated to manage my mind/body connection. This is better known as stress management or meditation.
Breathing for Core Strategy or Load Management
Air enters your body automatically because of pressure differences between the atmosphere and your internal body. By virtue of this automatic flow of air into your body, you need to increase volume somewhere to accommodate the incoming air.
This shape change is what we call breathing. We can change shape in our ribs and our chest as well as our stomach. The artful design of our body created the lungs to take in the air and they happen to live in our ribs which are designed to expand.
On the other hand, our stomach expands with increased food content. But if our abdomen expands when we take air into our lungs, it is really a bulge because no air actually changes the volume of the stomach. Think about a water balloon and how if you squeeze it, the rest of the balloon pushes out. Essentially that is what is happening on a belly breath. The ribs tighten so the belly can jut out.
Hopefully, it makes sense now that optimal breathing for movement and exercise utilizes mostly the movement of the ribs, which are designed to expand. The overflow of pressure then moves into the belly.
When you expand your ribs to breathe, you do not push down into your core. Nor into your pelvic floor. However, when you belly breathe, you do push down and out because of simple body mechanics.
Is a yoga belly breath bad? No, I enjoy lying on my back and allowing more shape change in my tummy as part of relaxation. Would I belly breathe when doing a goblet squat? A FIRM NO!
Find out how to assess your breathing and breathe for optimal core and pelvic floor health during Sarah’s free Short and Sweet webinar on July 15, 2021.
Breathing for Meditation or Stress Management
Breath work was my entryway into meditation. I found guided meditations difficult and distracting, but breath work kept my mind on my body and allowed for meditation to occur. There is a lot of good scientific research now on the power of meditation of any kind to lower stress levels and blood pressure levels, in addition to helping patients recover from trauma.
Let’s look at some of my favorite breath work guides.
Ana suffered from various stress related symptoms until she discovered breath work. She became a certified breath coach and has guided thousands of people to connect with their breath. Her healing journeys include music and guidance. I have enjoyed her free breath work offers and you may as well. She has been featured on NBC news, BravoTv, the LA Times, and Harpers Bazar.