It’s World Breathing Day coming up but you’d be forgiven for wondering why we need a reminder to do something that comes naturally to keep us alive. After all, breathing is automated- we do it without thinking.
SCROLL TO BOTTOM FOR FREE BREATHWORK SESSION One Grove Cheltenham Pilates Sat 10th at 10:00 to CELEBRATE
But therein lies the paradox. We often don’t know when we aren’t breathing properly. We rarely stop to examine what is or isn’t happening systematically. And we can suffer from the consequences.
And seeing as COVID-19 patients and Long COVID sufferers frequently report difficulty breathing, now would be a good time to take a moment and consider how we are faring in this seemingly simple task of breathing normally.
Breath control is our first task. We should be taking between 12-20 breaths per minute according the Royal Society of Physicians (2017). Our chests and abdomens should be moving in the same direction on our in-breath and out-breath, our neck and shoulders should be relaxed and our diaphragm should be working properly.
In our Pilates sessions, we frequently work with clients who find it hard to access chest and abdominal breathing. Typically years of stress, deskwork or manual labour have affected the way the neck and shoulder muscles activate and this natural chest expansion doesn’t happen. Similarly a compromised posture may inhibit abdominal movement. Every Pilates exercise provides a framework for improved steady breath control alongside muscular strength and flexibility gains.
Whilst recovering from COVID-19 you might feel more breathless than normal. The British Lung Foundation suggests that adopting a controlled breathing pattern with relaxed shoulders is key to overcoming breathlessness. Next, practice deep breathing: breathe in very slowly and deeply then gently breathe out without forcing it. (But not too many times as you might get dizzy!). Finally think of ‘hurring’ a mirror and take some huffing breaths where you take a medium-sized breath in then breathe out forcefully keeping your mouth open and use your stomach and chest muscles.
Since ancient times, Yogis have practised mindful breathing to achieve health and calm. And now studies are validating this as a scientific approach. Diaphragmatic breathing, also referred to as “slow abdominal breathing”, will instantly stimulate your vagus nerve and lower stress responses associated with “fight-or-flight” mechanisms. Deep breathing also improves heart rate variability (HRV), which is the measurement of variations within beat-to-beat intervals.
So visualize yourself filling up the lower part of your lungs just above your belly button like a balloon and then exhale slowly—this is going to stimulate your vagus nerve, activate your parasympathetic nervous system (your “rest and digest” state), and improve your HRV. [i]
The ebullient Wim Hof, the Dutch ‘Ice Man’ and author of ‘Activate Your Full Human Potential’ has brought breathing to the fore over lockdown showing that alongside cold exposure and meditation, his breath patterning methodology can override some of our autonomic bodily systems.
The way that you breathe has been proven to relate closely to immune system functioning, inflammation and pain. And that’s because your oxygen uptake, and your carbon dioxide release, strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body.
Wim Hof has some excellent breathing tutorials available on Youtube for free to get you started. But if you feel very inhibited or suffer from a respiratory pathology like COPD and want to improve your breathing, your best bet would be to see an informed respiratory therapist. Most good physiotherapists have training in respiratory practice- see our partner Katie Foster Physiotherapy.
If you want a personal mentor or to start to think about your breathing a little more, join our Breathwork instructor Corina for her 15minute FREE BREATHWORK session this Saturday morning April 10th 2021 in honour of World Breathing Day. Book via ‘Book Online’ at www.onegrove.co.u
Corina runs a Virtual Zoom Breathwork class every Wednesday morning at 08:00 from the One Grove Zoom room. Or train with one of our highly experienced Pilates and Yoga team to practice breath in motion, building power and fitness simultaneously.
PILATES classes daily schedule *_* Yoga classes Thursdays 09:00 and Fridays 12:00 *_* Breathwork class Wednesdasy 08:00
All Virtual Zoom classes are £6 per class.
AND join us Monday-Saturday IN the studio from April 12th 2021 to train your breath and your body back into shape.
All enquiries via email@example.com
Written by Lucy Whitehead, Lead Instructor and Owner, One Grove
[i] S Chen, P Sun, S Wang, G Lin and T Wang. Effects of heart rate variability biofeedback on cardiovascular responses and autonomic sympathovagal modulation following stressor tasks in prehypertensives. Journal of Human Hypertension. February 2016