#blowbeforeyougo #umbrellabreath #balanceisthenewstrength
Breathing is a function of your autonomic nervous system – this means that you don’t have to think about breathing, because your body does it automatically. Our brains are super amazing things, they use special receptors to check how much oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and much more to then send the message to our diaphragm to tell to either increase or decrease your rate and depth of breathing. For example, when you go for a run your body needs more oxygen to send to your muscles that are working, so your brain sends the message to your diaphragm to take bigger, more frequent breaths. So, the good news is that as long as these functions in your body are working, you will continue to breathe, however, there is a special way we can breathe that promotes balance of the muscles involved in breathing and optimise the action of the diaphragm to use our pressure system as efficiently as possible.
As I’ve said in class, your tummy is a pressure system – I want everybody to take a big breath in, and then try and take a breath on top of that, and a breath on top of that. You should notice that it gets harder as you try and take another breath, this is because there is only so much pressure our tummy can manage to hold. When you take that breath in, your diaphragm descends, your organs descend and your pelvic floor descends due to that pressure. When you breathe out, the opposite happens. Your diaphragm recoils and comes back up, your organs come up and your pelvic floor comes back up as well (you may notice your tummy returns to a flatter position as well).
Under normal circumstances this type of breathing may be enough to keep your system happy, but when you put your body under stress by exercising, or even doing things throughout your day such as lifting kids or taking the washing out to the line, you may start to feel that niggling pain or old injury starting to play up. This is more often than not because of breath holding. Keep thinking about your tummy as that pressure system, when it is already full of pressure from taking a breath in, and you then hold your breath by doing something strenuous, something has got to give, and you’ve guessed it – it’s that old netball injury from 10 years ago or that back pain that’s continuing to flare up every time you have the grandkids. You may also find you leak urine while doing something difficult, an issue we often put down to a weak pelvic floor, however if we can optimise our alignment and breathing, it may be enough to stop the flow and keep you dry.
And this brings me to our Umbrella breaths, or Umbrella breathing – have a watch of this quick 2-minute video
If you think about the action of an umbrella, how it comes from a closed position and then opens out at every angle, in every direction THAT is how we want you to breathe – now practice, take a big breath in and try and push your ribcage out at every angle, forwards, backwards and side to side. This kind of inhalation creates space; it can help to balance that pressure from the air you’ve taken in so your muscles work as a team which is a very powerful thing. A proper umbrella breath also has another special power – CALM. All that time in class I’m telling you to breathe through that tight stretch or sore spot with the spiky ball it’s because an optimised inhale will wake up your parasympathetic nervous system – our calming system (opposite to our fight or flight response), and how cool is that.
So when you start to think about your homework for this week, I want you to think about balance as being the key to a new kind of strength, think about how you can optimise your system not only while exercising but while doing all the things you do day to day in your busy life.
See you in class!