Did you know that oxygen is the most vital need of the human body? More than water, food, or any other nutrient you can name, oxygen is the first necessary ingredient for life.
If you didn't have oxygen, you could only survive about 3 minutes. No water, and you can make it around 3 days. You can survive without food for near 3 weeks. This is the rule of 3s, which makes it easy to remember.
When you look at it that way, then it's obvious that oxygen is the most necessary need. You don't last very long without out.
We don't think of oxygen as a nutrient, because it's so easy to get. It's free, it's abundant, and we don't have to think about where we are going to get it. We breathe 18,000-28,000 times a day. It's kind of a big deal!
We have a reflex that breathes without us thinking about it. If we had to think about all those breaths everyday, we wouldn't have much time for anything else. We can also voluntarily control our breathing pattern. This voluntary controls allows us to hold our breath, take a big whiff of something to smell, and talk or sing.
If we already all breathe everyday, then why is it important how to breathe?
Like anything, there is a way to do it, a better way, and a worse way. We are going to talk about a better way to breathe, and unless you've been trained in breathing already, this way is going to be an improvement on your current ability.
Breathing is meant to take place through the nose. This is an absolute that is always true. Your nose acts as a filter, a humidifier, a thermostat, a control valve, and an alarm system. As a filter, your nose captures particles and prevents them from getting inside. As a humidifier, your nasal passages provide moisture, as well as warming air to act like a thermostat. The volume of air entering and exiting is limited by the passage size resulting in a control valve. The alarm tells you when things smell good or smell bad, which could warn you of danger if you smell smoke or gas.
Yes, you are capable of breathing through your mouth, but your mouth is not designed for breathing. It's more of a backup plan. Your mouth doesn't provide the same filter allowing unwanted invaders into your system. It doesn't provide moisture or air warming the way the nose does. The volume of air is greater since the passage is larger, which is actually not desired (next paragraph), and you don't have the warning that smell can provide.
As far as the increased volume due to the larger passage through your mouth, when you exhale, your body released CO2. When breathing out of your mouth, you release a large amount of CO2, which can be useful at times. Overall though, this makes you more sensitive to CO2. Even when working out and increasing your breathing rate, it is preferred to breathe through your nose to regulate the removal of CO2.
Noses are made for breathing, mouths are made for eating.
Now that we established why we want to breath through our nose during inhale and exhale, here's another great benefit. Breathing through your nose helps to engage your diaphragm. The diaphragm is your breathing muscle, and it lines the bottom of your rib cage. It separates the upper trunk, which houses the heart and lungs, from the lower trunk, which has all the other important organs.
When you inhale using your diaphragm, it contracts downward creating negative pressure in your lungs which pulls air in. When you exhale, it relaxes and pushes up against the lungs squeezing air out. If you inhale and properly use your diaphragm, then your lower trunk organs get pressed down, resulting in an expansion of your belly. When you watch a baby sleep, you see a rise and fall of the belly. This is diaphragmatic breathing. This is how babies can sleep so peaceful. Diaphragmatic breathing helps to calm the nervous system. We all have the capability of doing this, but we learn to breathe improperly overtime. We need to learn to come back to better breathing.
Laying on your back with your knees slightly bent, place one hand on your chest, and one hand on your belly. Breath in and out through your nose and observe which hand rises and falls. If you find your chest moving, try to breath down into your belly so that the belly rises as you inhale, and falls as you exhale. This is diaphragmatic breathing. Enjoy 5-10 long and slow breaths here. In and out through the nose. Notice how this calms you down, soothes your nervous system, and encourages relaxation.
Continue to observe your breath and feel your belly rise and fall. The cyclical pattern of breath coming and going, is like watching the waves of the ocean. Another one comes, another one goes. You don't have to try, or judge, or intend anything. Just watch your breath like you would watch the ocean. This is one of the reasons why people love the ocean. It helps them get into a cyclical pattern that they can just observe and don't need to work toward. The next wave will always come, just like your next breath.
After you become familiar with getting into this breathing pattern, make light fists, and move your hands to the outside of your rib cage. Place your knuckles against the sides of your rib cage. Take your breath in through your nose by rising through your belly, then focus on increasing the lateral expansion of your rib cage into your fists. Observe how well you can sequence the movement, and how well you can expand your ribs laterally. Spend 3-5 breaths working on this.
Next, move one hand onto your sternum. Take a deep breath in through your nose letting your belly rise, followed by expanding laterally into your rib cage, and then lifting your sternum up toward your chin. Continue to work on inhaling while expanding in this sequence. Belly, lateral ribs, sternum. Spend 3-5 breaths working on this.
Last, you can keep your hand on your sternum or rest your arms at your sides. Take a deep breath into your nose, let your belly rise, your ribs expand laterally, your sternum rises toward your chin, and now the back of the rib cage expands down into the ground. This may be more difficult due to laying on your back, but keep the intention and you will feel your rib cage expanding in 360 degrees. Spend 3-5 breaths working on this.
At this point, you will have realized that your breath volume has increased, and your nervous system has calmed significantly. You have used your breath to soothe yourself. This is a tool you can always use, and in any position.
This full breath volume you are now able to attain, is your reference point. You should be able to attain 90% of your reference breath volume in any position, at any time. Even in a bad position, you should be able to utilize your diaphragm and expand your rib cage to 90% of what you could do lying down.
Try this for relaxing, stretching, or working out. Try it while sitting at your desk. Try it while doing a hamstring stretch. Try it while in a pushup position. Doesn't matter what position you're in, you need to be able to attain 90% of your breath volume. If you can't, then you have compensated your movement because you can't breath well in that position. You should be able to utilize the breath volume at any time, any position, any day.
You may notice small self releasing adjustments when you practice this. Maybe a small pop in your neck, or a softening in your butt muscles. Maybe a sudden increase in your breathing volume, or a reduction in some tension. Use this breath work during any activity to help you perform better. Yes, you breath thousands of times during the day anyway, but if you could breathe better, you would perform better. #snowbeastperformance