Over the last month I got better at riding my bike, carrying my kids, squatting, pulling, and pressing. All I did was practice one simple breathing drill. Interested?
Breathing is both vital for life, and for movement. Breathing well means aligning the pelvis and rib cage with each other. It also means engaging the muscles between the ribcage and pelvis to stabilize that position.
Many of us have lost the position, or the core activation required to do this well. As a result, many of us have breathing patterns that either don’t help, or actively contribute to issues such as chronic low back pain. Most of us become chest and neck breathers, meaning we shrug our shoulders to breathe, especially deep “cleansing” breaths. Some of us, often at the instruction of well-meaning bodyworkers and yoga teachers, expand the belly when breathing, but this is wrong too.
So. What is this miracle drill? Lie down, on your tummy, with your forehead propped on your hands and your legs and feet flat on the ground.
Take a deep breath.
On your next breath, focus on breathing into your low-back and sacrum.
On the breath after that, push into the low-back, and your sides, so you feel 360˚ pressure in your abdomen. You may feel like you want to adjust the position of your pelvis to better achieve this feeling; do it.
You can enhance this drill by placing small weights, like ankle weights or 2.5 lbs plates, on your low band and between the shoulder blades. Focus pressing into both weights evenly on each inhale.
Try this drill for 20 breaths. When you get it, you’ll feel your abdominal muscles turn on hard. If you don’t get it, no sweat. Come back to it in an hour or two and try again.
If you do get the feeling, flip onto your back with feet flat and knees up. Find that breath again by pressing the low-back and mid-back into the floor for 20 breaths.
If you can find it lying down get onto your hands and knees and find it again.
If you can find the breath in quadruped, kneel as tall as you can and find it again.
If you can find the breath in tall kneeling, stand up and find it again.
If you can find it standing, you can find it anywhere.
Check yourself you’re at your desk, carrying your kids, setting up for a big deadlift, or doing any other activity where good core stabilization might be useful. Find this breathing pattern. It might change your life. I know it changed mine.
P.S. Here’s the article that taught me how to do this. It’s got videos and everything.
Scott Robison, LMT #12892-146, practices structural bodywork in Madison, WI. He has eaten the same breakfast nearly everyday for 4 years. Seriously.