There are many things our bodies do automatically or involuntarily. For example, our heart beats on its own. We don’t control our heartbeat it just… beats. Likewise, breathing is something that our body mostly does on its own.
However, unlike our heartbeat, we can voluntarily influence our breathing patterns whenever we want to. On the surface, this may not seem that important or groundbreaking, but breathing is actually the foundation of EVERYTHING we do.
TWO TYPES OF BREATHING
Chest breathing, also known as thoracic breathing or shallow breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing, also referred to as belly breathing.
This concept confuses a lot of people so don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense yet. It will become more clear with PRACTICE…and as you read further.
Now I am about to break your brain momentarily. I just made it a point that there are two types of breathing; chest breathing and diaphragmatic breathing. However, that is really not true as ALL breathing involves the diaphragm. Say what!? (1)
Now before you throw the penalty flag on me, let me further explain. The differentiation between chest breathing and belly breathing is due to stabilization and movement of the diaphragm and ribs.
For visualization purposes, lets think of the diaphragm as an upside down hammock between two trees, the trees being your ribs. Now lets imagine breathing as a gust of wind. Chest breathing then would be when a gust of wind comes, the hammock doesn’t move but the trees(ribs) sway to the side, away from the hammock(diaphragm). So in other words, the diaphragm remains stable and the ribs move outwards. This elongates the diaphragm which decreases it’s capacity to “pull air in”.
Now with that same thought process lets visualize belly breathing. That same gust of wind comes but this time the hammock is stretched downwards and the trees remain stable. So the ribs don’t move but the diaphragm is lowered. This leads to an increase in breathing capacity as the lungs will then have more room to expand.
Why is this important?
Unfortunately, many people have developed poor breathing habits due to a wide range of reasons. Many people, especially those with poor posture and poor mechanics, have fallen victim to the habit of chest breathing.
Chest breathing minimizes oxygen intake during inhalation and decreases the amount of carbon dioxide that is released during exhalation. This minimizes oxygen to the bloodstream, which leads to quicker feelings of fatigue due to less ATP, the energy molecule created in the mitochondria of the cell. Chest breathing causes tension and stress in the upper body.
Belly breathing is the optimal way to breathe as it increases the surface area of the lungs which in turn increases the exchange of gases. In other words, oxygen intake and carbon dioxide outtake are maximized. This increase in oxygen will lead to an increase in ATP. This increase in ATP leads to greater endurance and ability to withstand stress. This is ideal breathing.
According to Professor Pavel Kolar (PT, PhD), the developer of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization(DNS), no human movement or thinking pattern can be performed optimally without ideal breathing. (2)
Furthermore, studies on Wim “The Iceman” Hof, have shown that the Wim Hof Method(a specific pattern of ideal breathing paired with mental focus and cold immersion) can give a person the ability to influence their autonomic nervous system and immune system. Again, SAY WHAT!? Well if you haven’t heard of Wim Hof here is a little background information. He holds over twenty Guinness World Records, he climbed Mt. Everest 23,000 ft barefoot and in shorts, and professional athletes around the globe have taken notice and started training with him. Mobility expert Dr. Kelly Starrett said the Wim Hof Method is “more important than all of the Apollo missions combined.” (3)
The studies on Wim Hof and those he trained in a controlled study have shown that those with poor breathing patterns have a blood PH that is too acidic( ~7.4). This causes the body to lose the ability to assimilate vitamins and minerals as well as heal itself. However, with the Wim Hof Method, we are able to increase the PH of our blood to levels that are more alkaline(~7.75). This in turn allows cells to assimilate vitamins and minerals.(3) Studies also show the Wim Hof Method can give one the ability to release epinephrine at will. Epinephrine, better known as Adrenaline, is a stress hormone that is released during increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system and it suppresses the immune response. This means that the body is then able to heal itself from inflammation. Talk about mind over matter!(4)
So before you go and hit those squats, sprints, or shooting drills, try a few minutes of focused ideal breathing. Put a book on your stomach and without breathing push your stomach in and out. If done properly, this will help activate your diaphragm. From here try doing several one minute rounds of focused belly breathing and let us know your thoughts!
To Sum It All Up
Proper breathing is essential for optimized physical and mental activity
Breathing, like any physical activity, must be trained PROPERLY
All breathing is diaphragmatic, however proper breathing involves movement of the diaphragm and stabilization of the ribs
The Wim Hof Method may allow the body to heal itself by influencing the autonomic nervous system and immune system.
(1)”In Pursuit of Yoga.” RSS. Accessed January 29, 2016. http://www.inpursuitofyoga.com/blog/2015/3/11/chest-breath-vs-belly-breath.“Chest Breath” vs “Belly Breath”
(2)Frank, Clare, Alena Kobesova, and Pavel Kolar. “DYNAMIC NEUROMUSCULAR STABILIZATION & SPORTS REHABILITATION.” Accessed January 29, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3578435/.
(3)Hof, Enahm, and Isabelle Hof. “Science Stands for a Mystery.” Science. 2015. Accessed January 29, 2016. http://www.icemanwimhof.com/science.Wim Hof Method Explained
(4)Scientific proof – Wim Hof Method. (2014). Retrieved January 30, 2016, from http://www.wimhofmethod.com/scientific-proof-wim-hof-method/