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How to Breathe During Exercise

Our breath can tell us many things. Jill Miller, Yogi and author with over 30 years experience studying anatomy and movement states, “Breathing happens automatically about 20,000 times a day. Think about doing 20,000 burpees (with bad form) in a day. What havoc would that wreak on your system?” Okay, doing 20,000 burpees with perfect form would wreak havoc on anyone, even on our top Made 2 Move athletes who have done physical therapy with us, but you get the point: breathing efficiently is crucial to our health.

Take a deep breath and take note of where you felt it the most. Did you feel your belly expand? Did you feel your shoulders raise and chest expand? Was it in the throat? Or are you unsure of where the breath originated and landed? If it was the chest, throat, or shoulders, then this means you are likely taking shallow, thoracic breaths. If you’re breathing this way, you may find throughout the day that your back and shoulder muscles become super sore from being overworked.

The natural process of breathing and the power of the breath in athletic performance, stress management, and overall well being is often overlooked. At Made 2 Move, we consider a variety of factors associated with your recovery, breathing being a major one. So what is a more efficient way to breathe and how can I benefit from it?

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing is also known as “belly breathing” and is a more efficient way of breathing as it allows our lungs to fill more fully with air. When you take “belly breaths,” your diaphragm shifts downward, allowing more space in the thoracic cavity for the lungs to expand and fill with air.

Every time we breathe, we naturally use our diaphragm, but as adults, we may not be utilizing the diaphragm to its fullest potential. Our bodies are smart; we are born knowing the proper mechanics for breathing. For example, observe a baby breathing when they are laying down. The breath is moving almost entirely through the abdomen, with little movement in the shoulders. Are you breathing this seamlessly as an adult?

Visualization strategies can be a great technique when relearning our breathing patterns. Visualization strategies could include thinking of a pinprick of light in the center of your diaphragm and this expanding out to all parts of your body with each inhale. You could also picture your diaphragm as a balloon, filling and expanding the stomach and rib cage outwards in all directions during inhalation.