Breathing is a fundamental element of life that supplies our body with the oxygen we need to move. Not to mention, keeping our bodies clean by ridding waste gases like carbon dioxide from our blood stream.
But did you know that the better you breathe, the better your movement will be? That’s what this blog is all about. Read on to discover why breathing and movement go hand in hand, and learn some strategies for improving the quality of your breathing.
The breathing and movement connection
Although breathing is an automatic function of the human body that we don’t have to think about, breathing awareness is an important part of the brain-body connection, which can aid in movement efficacy.
The diaphragm, a muscle that sits between the abdomen and chest, plays an important role in breathing-helping us inhale and exhale; it contracts and flattens, creating a vacuum that pulls air into the lungs before relaxing and returning to its dome shape, forcing air out of the lungs. The diaphragm does much more than helping us breathe though; it also influences swallowing, the bowel and bladder, core strength, posture, pelvic floor function, pain response, the nervous system, digestive health and mental focus, making it a muscle that sustains life. The vast fascial connections of the diaphragm means breathing positively affects our blood vessels, lymphatic flow, muscles, bones, and nerves from the head to the feet.
In addition, the way we breathe has a significant impact on our posture and mobility. A less-than-optimal breathing pattern causes tension and immobility, and immobility and tension prevent optimal breathing. As a result, breathing quality has the power to influence all aspects of our health and wellness, from how we feel and think, to how we sit, stand, and move.
Unlike most physiological functions, breathing can be controlled voluntarily and can serve as an entry point for physiological and psychological regulation.
With all this being said, breathing better will improve performance, enhance posture, reduce pain, and balance pressure, thus helping you move more efficiently and effectively.
Ways to improve your breathing
Now that we’ve established how better breathing can better your movement, here are six strategies you can use to improve your respiration so you can move better when you exercise and go about your day.
- Practice good posture: Good posture is essential to keeping your body properly aligned and optimising your breathing. Practicing good posture helps your chest, the thoracic region of your spine, rib cage and diaphragm to fully expand, increasing the range of motion on the front of your body.
- Stretch and flex: Work on relieving any tightness in your shoulders, chest and back with movements focused on flexibility, resistance and stretching. This can help you fully expand your ribcage in all directions when you breathe, optimising your respiration. You can do stretches or yoga to help loosen up any areas of tightness. It’s also a good idea to engage in activities that keep you active such as swimming, to keep your muscles moving and prevent them from stiffening up.
- Meditate: Regular meditation can also help improve your breathing. This can be as simple as taking time to focus on your breathing, without trying to control it. Added benefits of meditation include mental clarity, peace of mind, increased self-awareness, and reduced stress.
- Adjust your sleeping position: Your sleeping position can affect the way you breathe. Sleeping in a way that keeps your spine aligned will help keep your airways open and may also prevent snoring.
- Consider lifestyle changes: Keeping your lungs healthy is key to breathing well. So, maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, and take the right precautions to avoid lung infections and encourage lung health. It’s also a good idea to avoid smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke, as well as environmental irritants. Improving indoor air quality with air filters, and reducing irritants such as artificial fragrances, mold, and dust, can ensure you’re not breathing in anything harmful.
Breathing is the link to all movement. By bettering your breathing, you can also better your movement, which is essential to looking after your body and mind and living a happy, healthy life.