Basics of Breathing: Start Here
For our Basics of Breathing post, we will get into the anatomy of our ribs and inform you on how to optimize your breathing.
We all know that breathing is incredibly important and we’ve made impressive progress with our clients by improving their breathing.
The first thing that we’re going to talk about when it comes to the basics of breathing is your infrasternal angle.
In class, I talk about the Ironman symbol all of the time. Everyone is different and asymmetrical to some degree.
Some people will have a wider archetype like the picture on the left. Some will have a narrower ISA like the picture on the right.
The next point about the infrasternal angle is these ribs actually internally rotate and externally rotate. So it’s a very dynamic part of our body.
Don’t think about chasing the perfect shape, but more so just being able to express a dynamic ribcage.
Meaning when you inhale, these shapes can change. This angle can change and we have the option of expanding the ribcage 360 degrees.
When we exhale, probably the most important thing that I want to get across is that we’re able to actually close the front door which has a ton to do with that elusive “core stability/ strength” everyone is chasing.
Our lower ribs are malleable or in other words, they are able to change structurally over time. Your whole body really is from a cellular level, but even more so these lower ribs.
When we fully exhale, these ribs internally rotate and close the front door.
So when the lungs expand, they push out in all directions (ideally) and fill up all the way to under our collarbones. They fill up outwards laterally and very, very important…. they fill up the back ribs.
Our upper back or the turtle shell should also fill up.
Most people need to learn to exhale optimally to have a chance of filling the back ribs up well.
That’s why during class we do so many things that focus on fully exhaling and then pausing.
This is a game-changer.
Air follows the path of least resistance. If there is nothing in the front it will simply blow out there which is what is commonly called rib flare.
When it comes to the basics of breathing, getting out of your bad habits is a great place to start.
Don’t Use Your Neck To Pull Air in
The first one is going to be deadlifting your rib cage or essentially using your neck to pull air in.
Although the neck and other muscles are capable of respiration they are considered secondary breathing muscles. This means we should use them after sprints and more high-intensity situations not sitting at a desk working.
If you can imagine these muscles in the neck have connective tissue that runs into the first ribs. If you take a suboptimal breath using your neck, you are probably using these muscles in a compensatory way to pull air in.
It’s not a coincidence that if you do that 20,000 or even 100 hundred times a day, you will feel the tension in your neck.
Some of you might even see that you have lines, veins, and other signs of stress going on with your neck.
That is not what we want, and that’s why we created a class called the Neck Tranquilizer.
Now we don’t want to get people confused into thinking that means you shouldn’t breathe into your chest because the chest is actually a crucial part of filling up 360 degrees.
We always breathe from the bottom up. Our diaphragm is a muscle that is right under the rib cage. When we inhale, it pulls down to draw air in.
So a really quality full inhale is actually not going to be a deep breath as much as it’s going to be at 360-degree breaths, filling all the way up to the top.
It’s not that your chest isn’t going to expand, it’s that it’s going to be the last thing to expand, or everything kind of expands at once. Even more so bottom to the top, but at once is ok as well.
The other most common mistake we see with improving breathing is trying too hard.
Breathing drills and practice should not be stressful.
You need to learn how to differentiate between a hard, forceful, and stressful exhale versus a long, full, and relaxed exhale. There is a huge difference.
Many people try to muscle their breathing by squeezing their butt or crunching which honestly makes things worse.
We like to say let it happen or let the breath do the work. It is easier said than done but start slow.
On inhales do not go for max but instead inhale until it doesn’t feel easy to bring in more air.
On exhales go slow and get rid of a decent amount with a progressive mindset so that a little more goes out each breath cycle.
Learning the difference between the side ribs and the front is also very helpful visually. The front is going to work more in a pump handle. So think you’re at the gas station and you grab the handle to pump gas. See the visual below.
Another great visual during inhales is imagining each individual rib moving away from each other on inhales and towards each other on exhale. So different parts of your ribs move in different ways.
We like to think of the side ribs as expanding like Lamborghini doors… yes they go out but they also go up.
Learning to fully exhale without stressing out is a huge milestone in optimizing your breathing journey which is why you hear me say the exhale is the alley-oop to the inhale.
A full exhale with a pause is the best way to get a good inhale.
This concludes our basics of breathing.
Let us know if you have any questions about that and we’ll answer everything you got.
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