When you’re working toward a deadline and super busy…do you ever forget to breathe?

I do and it drives me crazy. I’ve been heads down studying for the Nation Board Exam and I’m down to the wire. I’ve been working really hard to breathe and keep my focus. It’s tough sometimes. 

I’ll catch myself holding my breath in a number of other situations as well: while in the gym, running or practicing yoga, I am constantly working on my breathing…yet I’m still challenged at times. 

It’s an activity we do 15,000-20,000 times per day.  That’s a lot of reps!  

Why can it be such a challenge given how much we do it?!?!

Eastern disciplines like yoga and martial arts have understood and taught the value of breathing, but it’s just making headway into the fitness and health world.

When we’re revved up, outside of our recovery zone, and overstressed our sympathetic nervous system (the gas pedal) takes over.

This amped-up system creates a cascade of effects:

  • Breathing is rapid and shallow
  • Secondary muscles of respiration kick in to “pull” air in. Cue tight shoulders and hips.
  • Our posture over-extends to accommodate

With our bodies out of position, it is darn near impossible to create quality movement in the gym.  Our ball and socket joints (the hips and shoulders) lock up – know anyone with stiff hips, backs or shoulders?

Ribs-down breathing helps take us out of “system extension” and cues our nervous system to chill out.

Our diaphragms are also put in a position to function properly allowing the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and jaw to take a break.

It’s like wiping the slate clean. 

How to do it

Lay on your back with your feet up or flat on the ground.  As you breathe, focus on:

  • Exhaling twice as long as you inhale
  • Pausing for a 2-3 count at the end of your breath
  • Inhaling 2-4 seconds

This feels unnatural at first and many people feel “air hungry” working at this pace.  

So just try slowing down the entire cycle by 1 or 2 seconds at the start.

Practice Breathing

Spend 5 minutes doing a mind & body scan today:  

  • Start from your breath focusing on the pace and flow of your breathing.
  • Do you feel your neck tighten up as you inhale?  Can you relax that?
  • If you lose focus, just return to your breath.  
  • Pay attention to what thoughts creep in.  What thing are you worried about?  
  • Can you actually feel your heart rate increase as these stressful thoughts come into your mind (you’ll be amazed that you can often feel the jolt of stress from these thoughts)
  • After 5 minutes, you can stop.  

Many of us aren’t in tune with our bodies and how we are processing and bearing the stress load.

Tune in today with this simple scan and just notice & name what you observe.

As you’re facing a deadline…remember to just breathe!

If this is a challenge for you…let me know and I can share some other ways to practice breathing.

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