Talking about breathing is very ‘on trend’ in the fitness industry right now.
Breathwork classes are popping up all over social media, there are gadgets and books telling people of the advantages of breathing a certain way. But what there is not, is an understanding of the mechanics of this vital human function – and how that integrates not only into our movement patterns, but also into our biochemistry and our psychological and emotional wellbeing.
There is a lot more to understanding breathing mechanics and its role in movement, performance and wellbeing than just wearing a face mask or keeping your mouth closed.
A system that is required to perform 10s of thousands of repetitions per day to meet the fundamental goal of stopping us from dying – will find a way to accomplish this task:
Our brains have a (very handily) built in priority order designed to protect life. Priority number one will always be ‘don’t die’ – get air in and out. The fact that the particular way that this is being accomplished may pre dispose issues with hip or shoulder function, emotional stress, impaired sleep or migraines is quite some way down the priority list behind ‘don’t die’ – and rightly so!
Brains also, however, don’t like letting go of things. Once they have figured out a way of getting air in and out and preserving life they will lock that down. That way priority number one is protected.
This all sounds well and good, but… when we consider that the respiratory system has a series of muscles designed to drive and support it, and that those muscles (like all muscles), have their function affected by position…. we can hopefully understand that changes in position of the skeleton will affect the ability of respiratory muscles to do their jobs. But not breathing is not an option – so the brain will find a new way to do that, and use any available muscle we have to drive air in and out.
This is a tiny insight into a very complex system, however, you can see a little more with some visual representation on this video: