I’ll be exploring a series of blog posts on breathing technique soon.
To kick things off, though, it’s important to first mention what is mostly overlooked when it comes to how to breath correctly.
In fact, what I’m about to say is not only overlooked, teachers and ‘gurus’ often give the complete opposite advice.
I used to have a chronic back problem. Any advice on breathing never really helped me. In fact, it often seemed to make things worse.
Now, everything I do improves the health of my back, including breathing.
Here are the 3 common mistakes you need to watch out for:
- Rhythmic – or any kind of ‘controlled’ – breathing all the time.
- Focusing too much on inhalations (or even to the same degree as your exhalations).
- Trying to practice diaphragmatic or belly breathing.
Okay, so let’s unpack this, starting with offering an alternative to the all-worshipped diaphragmatic, or belly, breathing.
There are 2 simple, connected reasons we don’t want to focus on this directly:
- Diaphragmatic breathing does not actively involve the hips; and
- The ribs (from the spine) are a dynamic, floating structure.
The hips support the spine. Everything hangs off the spine.
All our nerves run through the spine.
This is important if we want to move around and rest efficiently.
Fortunately, there is an alternative which naturally produces the effects of what many people are trying to illicit via diaphragmatic, or belly breathing.
Decompression breathing (as taught by Dr. Eric Goodman through his Foundation Training approach), whereby you extend the spine naturally as you inhale, then maintain that extension as you exhale, creates space for your lungs to continually expand.
An indirect result of practicing in the right way like this is an expansion of the diaphragm.
This dictates how much oxygen can be inhaled in a relaxed manner.
But the expansion of the diaphragm is only an effect.
Trying to focus on the diaphragm as a cause will most likely just cause unwanted tension and compress your spine.
With all that said, if you are going to try to modulate the in and out-flow of air, you should pay more attention to the out-breath.
Your exhalations should be longer than your inhalations.
The amount of fresh oxygen our lungs are able to take in is primarily dependent on how much we are able to empty them first.
That’s why this GIF is somewhat flawed:
It gives equal attention to the in and out-breath.
Although it is a neat little tool for reconnecting your attention to your breath, it is still a form of rhythmic breathing.
Any kind of ‘controlled’ breathing – rhythmic or otherwise – is already one step removed from reality.
What I mean is it’s a form of not accepting things as they are.
Trying to change something, whether it’s breathing or anything else, without becoming aware of what you’re already doing, limits the chance for any long-term transformation.
On the other hand, if you just watch your breath, you automatically start to enhance your self-awareness.
Just watch your breath going in. And going out.
Going in. And going out.
In turn, relaxed, long-term change happens by itself.
And if you do want to practice any ‘controlled’ breathing, to train your body how to breathe correctly by itself, start with decompression breathing.
Or you can give your system a wake-up call with the big breath.