By Miguel J. Ortiz
Breathing is literally the most important thing we do, and most people seldom think about it.
Each day we take about 20,000 breaths, which is about 14 thousand liters of air, and we should breathe through our stomach and not our chest. Unfortunately, we are very distracted. With a lot of stress, we forget to breathe properly causing us to use the wrong muscle groups and breathe from our chest. We should be taking around 6-12 breathes per minute, but we tend to average 16-20 breathes.
Controlled breathing techniques should be taught at childhood. Not only does proper breathing help use the muscles in your core more efficiently, but the calming stress relief and posture control gained from proper breathing will be one of the best things you’ll ever do. Here are a couple of breathing techniques that will help get you through day-to-day life and assist in strengthening your core and posture.
Because most of us are not used to breathing from our core and stomach, I recommend starting with some simple pressure or resistance. For this exercise you need a pillow or a rolled-up towel. Laying facedown, place the pillow under your stomach. For about 1 minute, take 5 to 7 slow breaths. On the inhale, concentrate on inflating the abdomen, you will feel your core press to slightly prop you up. On the exhale, control the tempo at which you lower yourself by slowly drawing in your navel allowing the body to sink over the pillow. After one minute, relax for about 30 seconds and repeat the routine. However, when you get to the top of the motion during the inhale, hold the breath for 3 seconds and tighten your core as much as possible, then exhale.
Next, turn over and go into bridge breathing. This particular movement will actually activate a lot more of your pelvic floor because of how the diaphragm is stretched. While lying on your back bend your knees up with your feet flat on the floor and hip width apart. When you begin to inhale, slowly lift your hips raising into a bridge position opening up your chest and be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of this position. As you slowly exhale, roll one vertebra at a time on the way down until your back is flat and back at the starting position. Perform this for 1 minute, take a 30 second rest and then repeat.
I personally love these two exercises to start and end my day, but the more you practice breathing from your core the more you’ll do it throughout the day. In order to do so, you need to be conscious of your breathing. So, the next time you’re sitting down breathe in, lightly draw in your navel (which will naturally lift the chest and posture). Slowly breathe out, allowing your posture to be maintained and be sure not to over contract your core on the exhale. When you do this, try to knock out 10 controlled breaths, break for 30 seconds and then repeat.
Enjoy your new breathing. Your core, your abs and posture will be sure to thank you.
Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.