From The Mind Body Moderate Archives, February 2009
I’m not good at breathing either. You’d think it’d come easy, but no. Of course not. It’s always the simplest things that are the most difficult. When I’m not thinking about it, I often end up slouched with stunted breath. When I do think about it I try so hard, it becomes forced and I am a prime candidate for hyperventilation. There are a billion different ways of breathing; breathing to relax, breathing for energy, belly breathing, thoracic breathing. I often tell my pilates clients that as long as they are breathing at all, I am happy. But seriously, this whole muscular training for breath is extremely important.What’s a person trying to live a balanced life to do?
First, accept it is hard. Second, keep practicing, but not too much at once. Remember our motto here is moderation. If it becomes too forced, or you are not fully exhaling, you will end up feeling lightheaded, and that can be dangerous. Stop. Go back to it later.
Here are some breathing cues and exercises that might help. Pick one that works for you and keep it in your regular exercise rotation. Believe it or not, just training your breath muscles will help tone torso muscles, this includes the abdominals, as well as giving your internal organs a massage.
#1. Breathe into your back
Focus your attention on expanding and contracting the lungs into the back of your rib cage and body. Aim your inhalation down through the back of the throat, deep down into the mid back.
#2. Umbrella Breath
Imagine there is a umbrella in your rib cage. As you inhale the umbrella closes along the spine. As you exhale, the umbrella expands. Counter-intuitive? Perhaps, but it works.
#3. Pelvic Balloon
Imagine a balloon rest deep in the center of your pelvis, that would be a few inches under the belly button and back deep in the center of the torso. As you inhale the balloon expands three dimensionally, filling the lower third of the torso. As you exhale it gently deflates back into the center.
#4. Inhale like you are smelling the Room/ Exhale onto your palm like you are fogging glass, but with no blowing air, just steam.
These suggestions are from fellow instructor Mary Zorich. By inhaling like you are smelling the room, the sinus cavities naturally open! It’s amazing how the brain can affect the body functions! When you exhale, in order to feel the deep abdominal muscles, place your palm in front of your mouth and exhale like you are fogging up a mirror, but don’t allow any air pressure to be felt or blown. Only a hot humid fogging exhale.
#5. Exhale everything out.
Try to let go of all CO2 in the lungs on your exhale until you feel there is nothing left. This will compel you to take a nice, deep, full inhale on the next round.
#6. Counting 50 breaths
This exercise is compliments of Yoga Instructor and Teacher Trainer, Pam Schulte. Pam recommends taking 50 normal old breaths, but counting them down as you go. Just by taking a moment to countdown between each breath will draw your attention and keep it center on breathing. It’s not forced. It just is. Once you have counted back to 0, sit quietly for a minutes focusing on your breath, but not counting. With practice, and remaining calm and still, one will have created for themselves a rather powerful and peaceful meditation.