How to incorporate breath work into training sessions simply and easily
by Rianna Poskin, CSCS
I was so blown away from reading James Nester’s Book “Breath” that I wanted to write up a few “take aways” to help you out. I encourage you to go and get this book and tell me what you loved about it in the comments below!
The first 3 things that stood out the most to improve our respiratory system were the importance of these things.
2 things: proper posture and conscious breathing often come up in many types of practices such as pilates and yoga.
The 3rd thing that stood out was “chewing“! Yes chewing! James Nester talks about how our respiratory system can benefit from chewing properly!!! Our face structure has changed since human beings were “hunters and gatherers”. Now that we eat softer foods like smoothies, soups, cooked vegetables and softer meats, we don’t have to work as hard to break down our food. This has led to less “good” stress on our face which has led to a changes in our bones and our soft tissue which has a correlation with our airway and respiratory system. Quite fascinating!
Conditions that improve simply from incorporating proper breathing techniques are:
- Sleep Apnea
- Athletic Performance
- Crooked Teeth
Each condition was improved by different researchers with different practices. There have been some amazing people helping others for many years and each condition is properly described in the book.
Nester discusses our 2 ways of breathing: mouth breathing and nasal breathing.
To sum up his research: mouth breathing is bad, and nasal breathing is good.
Here’s why: “Nasal breathing allows sinus’ to release nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen into cells. Immune function, weight, circulation, and mood can all be heavily influenced by the amount of Nitric Oxide in the body.” – Nester
“Nasal breathing increases Nitric Oxide sixfold which means we can absorb 18% more Oxygen” -Nester
Since we breathe on average 25,000 times per day without thinking about it, it might serve us to put some extra thought into this practice in order to get the best benefits from it!
“By focusing on nasal breathing we force air against the flabby tissue at the back of the throat making the airways wider and breathing easier. After awhile the tissues and muscles get “toned” to stay in this opened and wide position.” -Nester
Therefore, try and breathe through your nose as much as possible!
Here’s a few A-ha moments that I had:
- The “Framington Study” showed that the greatest indicator of life span was lung capacity
- We need to take FULL breaths, full inhale/full exhale which allows for us to change our lung capacity for the better at ANY stage of our life.
- Moderate exercise like walking and cycling, has been shown to boost lung capacity by 15% (when performed consistently/regularly)
- What our bodies really need isn’t more air, it’s more Carbon Dioxide (you’ll have to read the book to understand this one!)
- The lungs are the weight regulatory system of the body, for every 10 pounds of fat lost in our bodies, 8.5 pounds of it comes out through the lungs!
For my athletes:
There were many references to athletic performance benefitting a proper breathing program in Nester’s book. Here are 2 references that show how impactful breathing can be in athletic performance:
1. A choir conductor changed the way elite runners at Yale breathed, which led to 12 Olympic medals, most gold, and broke 5 world records.
2. A swim coach used breath training which led to their team winning 13 gold medals, 14 silver and 7 bronze medals while setting world records in 11 events.
If an athlete wants to get an edge on their performance, breath could be the missing link!
Finally what is the ideal breathing pattern and how to do it? I’ve attached my “Lunch and Learn” about this topic at the end of this post to show you a few easy ways to incorporate breathing techniques into your daily life and in strength training.
Here’s what the ideal breath looks like:
5.5 second inhale
5.5 second exhale at rest for 5.5 breaths/minute.
“An engine doesn’t have to be in tip top condition to work, but it gives a better performance if it is” Stough
If you are a coach or phys Ed teacher you can easily incorporate breathing into your training sessions or classes. Simply follow the exercises that I demonstrate at the end of my video to gain the benefits of breath work without making it a big deal with your athletes and students!
Keep those lungs healthy! Happy breathing!