How often do you think about your breathing?
Even being a yoga instructor, I never understood the deeper “why” behind the instruction to breathe until I got a lesson from Dr. Aron McConnell. Just one week of breathing exercises yielded impressive strength gains that got me hungry for more information on the breath, what it could do and how.
If you look for it, there’s a lot of information out there on breathing. With so many authorities producing content (yogis, monks, scientists, doctors, trainers, charlatans, journalists, and advertisers for apps and monitoring devices) it’s easy to get confused, make poor connections between different information, and even to feel judged about what is a necessary and mostly automatic/unconscious process.
The next few posts will outline a mental framework that I use to better understand breathing; how breathing affects your health, athleticism, and overall well-being; and how to change your breathing to better your life in a multitude of ways.
Understanding: A Breathing Continuum
Breathing is a toolbox for life and I like to think of it as a continuum with biological necessity on one end and (for lack of a better term) spirituality on the other.
- Biology: The biological necessity of breathing is something that most of us are acutely (if not academically) aware of: We take in oxygen which is used in aerobic respiration to produce energy and expel the metabolic waste of carbon dioxide.
- Kinesiology/Athletics: A lesser known aspect of breathing relates to the Holy Grail of physical fitness pros and athletes known as “core activation” and how we train people to breathe more effectively and with a purpose beyond the biological necessity.
- Neurology/Psychology: Here we enter into the realm of neurophysiology, sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system activation, and states of mind. How breathing affects - and is affected by - stress, hormone levels, sleep, emotional states, and even body composition.
- Spirituality: We end at the beginning of spiritual practice and meditation. How breathing is used as an anchor to both alleviate suffering and create a sense of well-being that enhances everyday life and can endure the most dire situations.
My hope is that you find this way of thinking about breathing - as well as the information in the other posts - helps you to understand this important biological function, why it deserves your attention, and the many reasons I focus on it as an OPEX Coach.
Note to the reader: This article is the 1st in a series on the broader topic of breathing. You can find the other articles linked below (if they've been released).
2. Why breathing matters for your movement (9 min)
3. How to change your breathing (to be released)
4. Breathing, therapy and spirituality (to be released)
About the Author:
Adam is an OPEX CCP coach at OPEX Baltimore South with 15 years of fitness experience ranging from Yoga to CrossFit. He’s also a Certified Nutrition Coach (PN1), specializes in corrective exercise (FMSC) and is a parkour trainer/practitioner.