If I were to tell you that you were probably breathing wrong and I could help you improve it, would you believe me? I mean, you ARE currently breathing and haven’t passed yet right? Convincing people that so much hinges on them conquering the way they breathe, is a tough one. But this won’t stop me from talking about this EVERY day in the office!
Good quality breathing is instrumental in reconnecting the deep core muscles, reducing muscle tension, reducing stress, improving detoxification, and more. Any time spent on working on our breathing is ALWAYS worth it.
As a core and pelvic health specialist PT, I would say that less than optimal breathing patterns are the norm in my practice. Teaching my patients how to improve their breathing practice is crucial for their success in resolving core, pelvic and back issues and optimizing their health.
Here are three ways that you can work on and challenge your breathing practice.
1). Direct your airflow.
Ideally, breathing IN should be done through our nose with our mouth closed. Exhaling should be through our mouth. And to be more specific, when working on breathing we should draw our mouth/lips more closely together or purse our lips softly. This helps us to extend the time we exhale as well as better connect to our core. While we sleep, it is actually best to keep our mouth closed and inhale and exhale through our nose. But while awake and working on belly breathing, focus on the in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
2). Focus on breath timing.
One of the MOST common things I see with patients who are stressed or have tense muscles is a lack of time spent on INHALE. They often could exhale for 10 counts, while only taking 2 counts to breath IN. We NEED balance in our body and this is no exception. Also, the inhale is where we encourage our core muscles to release and reset. This includes the abdominals and pelvic floor. I try not to ever request patients to take BIG breaths, because it will almost always result in a short and stiff inhale. Instead, I ask them to take a long and SLOW inhale and try to count up to 4, then exhale for 4. This is harder than you may think for so many.
3). Try breathing in different postures.
All of these images are postures to try breathing in and there are even more! But first, let’s be sure we know what the baseline pattern is, and then we can try this pattern of breathing in all postures. I find it helpful for people to try belly breathing in all postures, and if they are struggling, focus first on the posture that they feel they can breathe best and work from there.
When INHALING through our nose, we want to imagine that air is coming into our belly and the belly will expand. As we exhale out through our mouth, the belly is deflating. You may be surprised to read that breathing on hands and knees can be quite a struggle for many. Keeping the belly expanding with inhale in mind, try doing this on your hands and knees. If it feels like a challenge to let your belly drop, then your body is most likely not used to releasing fully. This is a good posture to practice.
Child’s Pose may feel much easier than hands and knees, but leaning up against the wall with feet about 18” from the wall with low back flat can be quite a challenge as well!
Not pictured is simply laying on your side with knees bent. If you allow your top shoulder to tip back slightly, you may find that you can take your BEST relaxing breaths here. Many do.
So if you didn’t know how to work on YOUR breathing skills, here are my favorites for you to try. I recommend setting a timer for 5-10 minutes to work on your breathing without any distractions if that is at all possible. Think of it as a relaxing mini health retreat. You will likely find that you are less stressed afterwards and will slowly begin to feel how connected your deep core muscles are to your breath.
If you have questions about your breathing and core and pelvic health, we are happy to get you scheduled for a free consult to speak with one of our therapists.