With COVID dominating the headlines, it sure has got me thinking more about the respiratory/pulmonary systems and how to optimize them. Many people didn’t know that there are different ways to breathe, focusing on drawing your breath from your mouth or nose and filling different parts of your respiratory system at different cadences.
Prior to jumping into the ‘breathing’ rabbit hole in search of more information, I had no idea what diaphragmatic breathing meant. Thankfully wizards like Wim Hof and Rickson Gracie have unlocked the secrets of breathwork to the world. We’ll dig into the different benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, training modalities, and breath exercises.
Diaphragmatic Breathing is also commonly referred to as “Belly Breathing” as it will cause the diaphragm and belly to expand and contract. To be clear, the lungs are the only organ that takes breath in, but a strong diaphragm can be used to give you more power to empty your lungs. As we age, the diaphragm can weaken which exposes a whole host of health problems.
So Why is Diaphragmatic Breathing Beneficial?
There are four primary reasons diaphragmatic breathing can be beneficial:
- Strengthen the diaphragm
- Slows your breath rate
- Decrease oxygen demand
- Uses less effort and energy to breathe
The Basics on Belly Breathing
To figure out what we are even talking about, let’s go through a simple breathing exercise. This image courtesy of the Cleveland clinic does a great job explaining the basic movement.
It’s also important to note that you should be focusing on breathing out of your nose. I recently watched Joe Rogan Podcast #1506 with James Nestor. On the show, they talked all about the benefits of breathing through your nose (versus mouth breathing). I have to say, I was kind of shocked at how powerful our ‘Schnoz’ really is. I won’t do the podcast justice in this piece, but check it out, I’ve included some notes in this link.
Also not the first time our favorite ‘bro-scientist’ has had a guest on talking about breath and the power of it.
While these are interesting things to watch to learn more about belling breathing, don’t get too carried away and try some of Wim’s intense breathing or cold techniques unless you are with him or some sort of professional for guidance. First, get the basic movements down and start to incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine before trying anything too intense. Adding basic breathing techniques to a daily routine is quick, effective, and ‘hey…you have to breathe anyway…might as well optimize it!”
Here a few our Third Coast Health team has tried and enjoyed and they’re a great place for a beginner.
Breathing Exercise 1:
Set a timer for 6 minutes (we’ll work in 30-second intervals).
Each breath should be a diaphragmatic breath, filling your belly.
30 seconds Inhale and Exhale through the nose exhaling each second
30 seconds Inhale and Exhale through the Mouth exhaling each second
30 seconds Inhale and Exhale through the nose exhaling every other second
30 seconds Inhale and Exhale through the Mouth exhaling every other second
30 seconds Inhale and Exhale through the nose exhaling as quickly as possible
30 seconds Inhale and Exhale through the Mouth exhaling as quickly as possible
Repeat the cycle.
More Advanced Breath Workouts
We’ve been following Jiu-Jitsu Flo on youtube for a while now, and they have a great video on breathe work. This is a bit more advanced, but the visual might help if you think you are ready for it.
What I’ve Gained From Diaphragmatic Breath Work
Since incorporating breath work into my regular fitness routine, I’ve uncovered some interesting things.
- It can get hard. Believe it or not, you can get a decent sweat going just from a breath workout
- Awareness – when was the last time you thought about or focused on your respiration. It has been interesting to focus on this over the past few weeks. More consciously breathing out of my nose and taking belly breaths is much more routine for me.
- Cardio – my cardio has dramatically improved. The additional focus and awareness have paid dividends in both my endurance as measured by running distances and times as well as power and explosiveness as measured by work rates through various WODs that I have completed in the past for reference.
- Inner Peace – You cannot deny the calming effect, much in the way Yoga works. Breath control is pivotal to yoga, meditation, etc. and really provides a calming anti-anxiety effect. The sole focus on breath calms the mind’s eye.
Interested in more on Breathe Work? Tried it for yourself? Hit the comments and engage with us about your favorite diaphragmatic breathing techniques or breathing exercises that have worked for you!