Breathing comes naturally, but breathing efficiently takes practice. Once you’ve developed a basic level of competency, everything gets easier – from high performance sports to being creative to resting, and everything in between.
Efficient breathing is also a core basis for reaching profound places in your breathwork sessions.
Your attention will less be drawn to trying to breathe so that your breath can more easily be the gateway to letting go of your mind and breaking through fear – not an easy feat with respiratory restriction constantly pulling your attention back to the ‘physical’.
Not many people spend much time thinking about, let alone practicing their breathing. However, a few drills practiced regularly combined with the awareness of your breathing during your movement practice will yield benefits for a lifetime.
So allow me to take you through an exercise for diaphragmatic breathing, which is fundamental to breath control and efficiency. Place one hand on your chest, the other on your abdomen, just below your sternum, on the solar plexus, or diaphragm area. Use your hands to feel & observe into which parts of your lungs you are breathing. Where is the movement taking place? In the chest? Abdomen? Back? Sides? Everywhere? Where do you feel it the most?
Let’s learn to control where the breathing takes place at a mechanical level. You want to be able to use your diaphragm only (abdomen area) and not your chest (the opposite is easy for everyone), which can be challenging at first.
Start by taking an easy breath in through the nose.
Now breathe OUT through the mouth, contracting your abdominal muscles. As you do, the diaphragm relaxes as your belly pulls IN. Breathe all the way out, until you cannot pull in your belly any further.
Time to breathe in. The common reflex is to inflate your chest and make it big. Resist this. Instead, avoid any voluntary movement from your chest and upper respiratory muscles. Of course, chest breathing is very useful in movement when intensity demands it, but your ultimate goal should be to learn how to dissociate and select various ways of breathing, at will.
Here, focus on your diaphragm and abdomen area.
Now that we have made room for new air, it is time to breathe in! The breathing in we want is that the diaphragm contracts (descends), letting your belly inflate as you inhale fully. It won’t show your six packs abs, but it is essential to learn to breathe in a relaxed manner. When you breathe in and you’re just sitting or standing, you don’t need the superficial layer of your abdominal muscles to contract. If there is a slight motion in your chest, it is the sole result of your deep inhale, not the result of a voluntary use of other muscles besides the key respiratory muscles.
Once you have a sense of the lowering (inhale) and raising (exhale) of your diaphragm, and on different days or situations, start to try some progressions and variations to explore in your breathing practice:
>> Practice rhythm, for instance breathing in and out increasingly fast, or alternate fast inhale and slow exhale, slow inhale and fast exhale etc…without losing your pattern and getting confused, or bringing the chest into your breathing practice.
>> Practice integrating your breathing practice into the daily movement practice or while exercising or simply walking, at varied levels of intensity, until you feel that it becomes an integral part of your movement. For example, with walking, at first it may be controlling the timing of your diaphragmatic breathing – 3 steps INhale, 6 steps EXhale. Or, find the timing which enables you to keep breathing diaphragmatically in the most relaxed way possible.
After a while, you might realise this starts to become less controlled and simply the way you now naturally breathe! Just keep practicing!
Where breathing dis-function is preventing you from developing an fruitful relationship with your breath, personalised attention from an experienced breathwork practitioner can do wonders. Please get in touch OR book into a Perth workshop to experience the gateways that breathwork can provide in your life..
My previous blog post mentioned “so much more” in reference to how I avoided back surgery and went on to live a relatively pain free life. I thought it would be remiss of me not to share the powerful but understated technique to which this elusive comment refers!
I failed to mention the pivotal few days that led to my decision to not go under the knife – to elect not to have the discectomy (part of one of my very necessary vertebral discs removed) that I had been prescribed.
What I didn’t realise at the time, was just how fortunate I was to have also been prescribed ear surgery to patch up an ear drum I had ruptured wake boarding some months earlier. What was fortunate about this situation was that I was forced to lye in bed for 2 days while the affects of the drugs and anaesthetic wore off. During this time while nothing to do and nowhere to be, I found myself intuitively focusing on my breathing. I wasn't trying to control or change it, but I simply used the time to observe the breath until it started to become a wholebody experience. I could literally feel every cell in my body breathe along with every inhale and exhale that passed my lips.
When you’re focused on something (in this case the breath), it’s very difficult to focus on anything else (i.e. ‘think’). These gaps in my usual thinking created space in my mind.
With this spaciousness came ease in my cells,
in my being and the inflammation that had caused me
debilitating pain over the past month, settled.
After these 2 days I could walk again with ease. I managed to avoid having the prescribed surgery and nurtured my new state of health with positive lifestyle choices.
2 days of conscious awareness of my breath compared to a big scar, massive down down time from my work and months of rehabilitation from surgery? I would take this option any day!
The beauty of this experience for me is the simplicity of the technique relative to the powerful physical transformation that took place.
So, why are doctors not prescribing such techniques to their patients? Well, there are many reasons and I’ll save sharing my opinions to a later blog, but what I can say is that this method of healing is FREE and I believe there is no better way to experience your immense personal power by healing your body via the breath.
If you're experiencing a restriction or dis-ease within your body, you don't have to wait like I did for a crisis to allow yourself the time to "do nothing" so that you can start the healing process. These powerful techniques are available to you today so book in for a free phone consult to chat about how to fast track your physical and emotional healing.
These days I practice a variety of different types of breathwork and am continuously amazed by what comes up both physically and emotionally - stuff that would have held me back from experiencing life to its fullest for years, had I not taken the opportunity to realise it was there, work through it and let it go.
I can honestly say I experience new insight into, and a greater connection to, both myself and the world around me with every breathwork session I take, and my sense of personal freedom and power as a woman continues to grow exponentially.
Whether you're new to breathwork or have had a practice for years, you may like to experience the combined power of breathwork and movement at one of our Perth workshops.
Breath Heals. You are the Master of your body. Inquire within.
I have always been a mover - whether it be gymnastics, athletics, boxing, dancing, or adventures in nature. If it meant being active (and competitive!) I was there.
What I didn’t realise, is that at some point, or points, throughout my movement history, which involved various stacks, crashes and goal-oriented training, my body started to develop faulty movement patterns, or 'compensation patterns'.
When we injure ourselves, affected muscles and joints can stop doing their job, forcing other muscles or joints (not intended for that movement) to take up the slack. This is fine temporarily, but when correct function is not reinstated, we may forever move sub-optimally. This can result in pain, restriction, poor posture and movement inefficiency - basically not maximising your body’s potential! Want to know how movement coaching can optimise your body’s potential?
Then one day when I was at university, I took a bus into the city to meet up with a study group and as I stepped off the bus I felt a sharp pain shooting down my leg. All of a sudden I couldn’t walk....at the ripe young age of 20!
At the time I did the “smart” thing and took the advice of a neurosurgeon (who’s job it is to cut open battered bodies), which was to ‘immobilise’ and take 6 months of uni. This meant me lying on my back in my Mum’s lounge room watching far too many episodes of Days of Our Lives….and it seemed even Dr Phil couldn’t help!
Oh the wisdom of hindsight – spines (and discs) NEED movement. Needless to say, 6 months later I was wheeled into the operating room to have part of one of my vertebral discs removed.
My back healed (or at least the incision did) and movement again become a big part of my life. In fact I had even stumbled into teaching movement after Pilates had proven useful to rehabilitate myself from various snow boarding injuries. Unfortunately however, I was still experiencing lower back pain in the same area as before the surgery 10 years earlier. It took me a few more years to figure out why.
The thing is, the surgery hadn’t addressed the faulty movement patterns that had caused my discs to be inflamed all those years earlier, and therefore the same issue was rearing its ugly head. After all, it's difficult to address something you don't realise is an issue. I had received treatment for back pain from various manual therapists, and whilst some offered corrective exercises, none suggested that the way I walked, played sport, slept, sat, stood, etc. could be the cause of the pain and restriction I was experiencing! In fact, I wasn't even aware that movement (re-)training was a thing. Pilates was great for keeping me physically fit, but without being aware of my faulty movement patterns, my condition only got worse!
Identifying these patterns required firstly for someone to point them out (thanks JP from Body Logic), and then that I ‘tune in’ to my body on a deeper level than I had before. I needed to step back from big explosive movements to listen to the subtleties. And what I heard was unexpected. Whilst my entire focus around my physical body had been on physique and fitness, I started to hear that my physical body was simply responding to how I was moving through life - rushed, short of breath and, well...wonky! This was my slap-in-the-face insight into the mind-body connection.
Then a few years ago, the penny well untruly dropped. I was in Bali and again I couldn’t walk. By now I theoretically understood that we have the ability to harness the power of our minds, but when pain and pressure were affecting my livelihood, sadly surgery seemed like my only option. This time though, I knew better. So, I decided to embody it. This was no easy decision, as many well-meaning friends and family just wanted to see me out of pain in the quickest possible way. But knowing a quick fix is just that, I decided to take the risk and elected not to have the surgery.
I did extensive study and moved in ways that resonated with my body. I learnt about fascia mostly via Slings Myofascial Training©, which is not only a physical training, but considers the body holistically via the fascial network. This network has physical qualities that we can enhance with movement, with massage, but it is also highly innervated, meaning sometimes we can make the biggest changes with the most subtle inputs. So I started working with the subtleties via a line of inquiry:
> How could I use the breath to create expansiveness in certain areas of the body while switching off “held” muscles around the injury and soften tension in tissues?
> How could I use what I knew about fascia being a highly sensory organ to bring about change in the way I sensed my body, including the pain I was experiencing?
> How could I sequence moves to access the parasympathetic nervous system and hence healthy fascial tone, in my case, by way of letting go.
> How could I regulate the intrinsic tone of my muscles when even walking hurt?
Insight gained was from many sources. I learnt from Gary Ward how our joints are meant to move through their ranges in walking (gait biomechanics, which underpins all movement) and how to ‘find centre’. Bruce Lipton inspired me with the science of epigenetics that confirms the lifestyle (environment) we chose influences our gene expression (our physical function and appearance) and I refined how to put this into action with the wisdom of the likes of Ph360 and Joe Dispenza. Ido Portal affirmed that movement is art, is inspired from within and enhanced with continual play, challenge and expression. Through Jon Kabat-Ziin’s work I embodied mindfulness, and was informed by Kelly McGonical of how our perception of stress affects the physical body. And so much more.
As my knowledge evolved, my lifestyle changed. I found ways to move, breathe, eat and think to nourish my joints, ward off muscle atrophy, wake up sleepy muscles (still asleep from previous injuries), improve fascial health and most of all, reduce inflammation and bring ease to my being. I could hardly believe that I had evaded surgery by tuning in to have pain-free movement freedom return.
I felt a sense of empowerment like never before. 6 months after that time in Bali, I competed in a multi-event adventure race and I am currently in training for my next race today.
By no way am I going to pretend that I my body is 100% where I want it to be. One thing about having a heightened awareness of your body is you are also highly aware of what’s possible, so there are still aspects that I’m working on to bring even more balance back into my body. And I’m quite content in knowing that I have the resources to make this happen.
If you feel like some feedback from a trained movement professional could help you to tune in, get in touch or check how we can help.