We breathe on average about 21,000 times a day. Now, what if we are not breathing correctly? That’s a lot of times in one day to do something wrong. There’s various ways to breathe: mouth V nasal, chest V abdominal. Some good, some not so good. If our breathing pattern is not “normal”, then we will struggle to normalise any of our other movement patterns.
Optimal oxygenation occurs through nasal breathing. We should be doing this 99% of the time. Mouth breathing is associated with “fight or flight”, whereas nasal breathing is associated with “rest and digest”. Basically we want to convince our brain that it is in a “rest and digest” state a majority of the time to reap the benefits. Nasal breathing reassures our subconscious we are safe. We need to turn nasal breathing into a habit. This can be tricky at first, but we will explain how and why you should be doing this below.
In a nutshell, “fight or flight” can be associated with mouth breathing, neck extension, flaring elbows, decreased thoracic rotation and increased stress in the lower back region. This is fine during short bouts of activity but if our body is like this most of the time because of our breathing, it ain’t good.
So the title of this article is ‘21,000 reps vs 30 ’. The 30 reps is highlighting the 3 sets of 10 reps commonly given by physiotherapists for rehab exercises. Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions and says I’m bashing home exercise programs, I’m not. Rehab and strength exercises are awesome and we love them here at Evolutio Sports Physio in Richmond. It’s just merely highlighting how beneficial focusing on our breathing can be, especially in combination with our strength and mobility exercises.
To breathe effectively we need a stable airway. The best way to do this is to have the tongue on the roof of the mouth. The correct spot is where your tongue hits the roof of your mouth when you say “na na na”. Now this is pretty straightforward but it’s a perfect excuse to post a link of Will Smith's timeless classic “Gettin’ Jiggy with it”.
With the tongue in this position and lips together, we should breathe in and out only through the nose. Breathing should be silent and effortless. Inhale (3 seconds) and exhale (6 seconds). Without this our body is in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Think about various situations when you mouth breathe; After getting a fright; Before a presentation in front of hundreds of people; after running a marathon or playing a footy game.
Now put it into practice and test out your own breathing pattern. Place your hands on your belly and chest. On inhalation, your belly should push out. Your chest should remain still. Breathing should be slow, silent and effortless. If you find your chest rising, you are not utilising your diaphragm and lungs efficiently. Take inflating a balloon for example. Blow fast and it won’t expand. Slow and steady and it inflates much better.
A quick science lesson here, nasal breathing increases nitric oxide, an increase of nitric oxide leads to vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), vasodilation increases blood flow, and an increase in blood flow leads to more oxygen to the working muscles and brain. As an added bonus, slow and silent breathing also gets rid of all the waste (Carbon dioxide) more effectively.
The diaphragm is the key to effective breathing. Our diaphragm needs to shorten and lengthen to help our ribcage move freely. Our psoas and QL muscles (cause of a lot of lower back pain) attach to our diaphragm, and coordinating these muscles along with the pelvic floor can result in more efficient breathing and help reduce pain. But that’s for another blog. If I went into this topic now there would be an overload of info to deal with.
Our breathing can be so effective if utilised correctly. It can limit the stress on the body, while also an effective tool in recovery. Athletes for instance should really focus on breathing especially during a recovery run or session. During this recovery run they should only use nasal breathing. If they are unable to do this, it is more than likely not a recovery run! A good way to do this is by applying some tape over your mouth, or to try running with a mouth full of water and not let any of it spill out (and avoid choking). Breathing correctly at the gym when lifting weights is also crucial, but again we will delve into this in another blog.
Breathing effectively and smartly can not only relieve stress on our musculoskeletal system, it can also have positive influences on sleep, mood, anxiety and depression. So over the next while take notice and try and put some of these tips into practice.
Any questions at all don’t hesitate to contact us here at Evolutio Physio in Richmond. As always thanks for reading.
Sean is the newest team member, from that place where Colin Mcgregor comes from. The one with Guinness on tap, where the sun rarely shines and where whiskey is found in barrels a plenty. Sean has worked with American football D2, Gaelic, Hurling and is working the Melbourne high old boys footy club. You can book in with Sean here