Thursday, October 25, 2012

Take a deep breath

Breathing is intuitive so most people probably feel it doesn't require special training to get it right.  However, it's easy to form bad habits as a result of poor posture, movement patterns and even stress.  For athletes, these bad habits can affect the nervous system, contribute to muscle fatigue, and decrease performance, so it's worth taking the time to learn some breathing techniques.

There are two main ways to breath:

Belly breathing - is one dimensional, with your belly expanding outward as you inhale.  This type of breathing often feels more natural, is easy to learn and is recommended for stress and anxiety relief.

Diaphragmatic breathing - relies on the large muscle just below the lungs.  If engaged properly, you should notice your ribcage expanding to the front as well as the back and sides of your torso.  This creates a stronger vacuum which allows you to suck more air into your lungs. 

Most people fall into a pattern of breathing where you overuse the muscles in the neck and upper body (known as the accessory muscles of inspiration) and under use the diaphragm.  During heavy exercise or training, the body needs these accessory muscles to kick in and supplement the diaphragm's action by moving the rib cage up and down quickly.  This action brings more air into the lungs, but the accessory muscles tire easily and if they are overused it can leave you feeling fatigued and anxious.

To learn optimal breathing techniques, getting the position of your ribcage right is key.  A neutral posture, the happy middle between slouching and having your chest pushed forward, gives your diaphragm the most room to contract.  Good breathing posture develops pressure from the within the abdomen that stabilizes your core, and transfers power between your upper and lower body giving you the ability to move more efficiently.

Proper breathing enables the body to get the needed oxygen to the brain and muscles, regulates your heart rate and helps athletes maintain their focus under the pressure of competition  Overall, adopting an effective breathing technique can have a dramatic effect on an athlete's physiology, their ability to relax, and ultimately on performance.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Bacchus H. BREATHWORK AND SPORTS PERFORMANCE. Sportex Dynamics. January 2010;(23):21-26.
2. Blecher M. Play hard, breathe deeply. Women's Sports & Fitness. March 1997;19(2):52.
3. Guenette J, Sheel A. Physiological consequences of a high work of breathing during heavy exercise in humans. Journal Of Science & Medicine In Sport. December 2007;10(6):341-350.
4. Hall G, Baker O. A BETTER WAY TO BREATHE. Triathlete. June 2012;(339):54.
5. Nelson N. Diaphragmatic Breathing's Influence on Core Stability and Neck Pain. IDEA Fitness Journal. March 2012;9(3):28-30.
6. Whipp B, Ward S. Determinants and control of breathing during muscular exercise. / Le controle de la respiration au cours de l ' exercice musculaire et ses determinants. British Journal Of Sports Medicine. September 1998;32(3):199-211.

1 comment:

Craig Johnson said...

Breathwork training helps in activating the subconscious mind and bring awareness and insights which can not be easily accessed through traditional therapy.
Breathwork Training