3 reasons I focus on breathing in my coaching
Breathing is something we do without having to think about it as it’s thankfully a natural reflex that keeps us alive.
So if our body naturally remind us to breathe, why do we need to focus on it further?
All of my coaching starts with the breath – whether we’re looking at Pilates, weights, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises.
Whether I'm dealing with a seasoned athlete or a new Mum.
In fact, I also use it as a nutritional tool and mindset support mechanism too.
So what’s so great about breathing?
Here are the my 3 top reasons for focussing on the breath:
- Concentration & Brain distraction
- For building a Core Strength
- Avoiding the risks of breath holding
You can read your way through all of the article or skip to the part that seems most relevant to You.
Concentration and brain distraction
Now that title might seem to contradict itself. If breathing helps you concentrate why would you want to be distracted?
Let me answer that question with another question:
Do you ever start doing a task and then get side-tracked, remembering something else you need to do or thinking, “I’ll just do that first”?
Yeah, me too!
By bringing our attention to our breath, it turns up the volume on our focus and turns down the noise coming from everything else that’s going on in our head.
It allows us to bring an element of mindfulness to what we want to achieve, irrespective of what’s going on around us.
Take me right now – it’s the end of the week, my little boy was up through the night so I’m tired and my head is darting here, there and everywhere with things I want and need to do. My phone is receiving messages like a Balisha Beacon and there are conversations and noise going on all around me. Distracted??? Most definitely.
So, I stopped and counted 4 complete breaths – counting to 8 as I went, separating the in breath and the out breath. Opened my eyes, put my phone away and feel more focussed.
Is it that easy? Not at first. It takes practice but I promise it’s worth it!
When it comes to movement, focussing on your breath FIRST helps you to:
- bring your mind to your session
- focus on your body – how it feels and what it’s about to do
- give your brain a break from all the other noise that’s going on up there in your head
Concentration and breathing are 2 of the original principles of Pilates.
Although my coaching is not limited to just Pilates, I most definitely aim to embody the principles in everything I do as they:
- improve results
- increase enjoyment
- bring calmness
Here's how you can try it:
Identify one thing you do 3-4 times a day. It could be putting the kettle on, getting into your car, putting the radio on. Each time you do that thing, stop and do 4 complete breaths counting the inhale and exhale til you get to 8.
See how you feel.
This is a big one!
Whether you want to strengthen your “Core”, improve your pelvic floor health, tone your tummy or build your fitness and strength in any way then you NEED this core connection.
People will talk about “diaphragmatic breathing” – sorry to be a spoiler but ALL breathing is diaphragmatic, meaning moving your diaphragm. If your diaphragm isn’t moving, you’re not breathing and that brings obvious consequences.
What we can do is co-ordinate movement of that diaphragm with movement of or pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, whilst improving our alignment.
Do we need perfect posture?
I’m not entirely sure what perfect posture would be, I do think it varies a little between people, and for the same person at different stages of their lives.
However, I do also think that certain positions increase pressure into our abdomen and pelvic floor and reduce that connection between these ‘core’ parts of our torso.
To emphasize what I mean here, ask yourself this question:
Have you ever felt your tummy bulge out and/or pressure down into your pelvic floor when you sneeze or cough? Perhaps you even experienced a little bit of urinary leakage at the same time?
Here your breath did not connect to the movement of your pelvic floor, leading to a big increase in pressure in your abdominal cavity with the consequences you felt.
If we can focus our breath and core connection so that the diaphragm and pelvic floor support, follow and synchronise with each other, that pressure (and leakage) goes away.
So as you exhale, your diaphragm moves up to expel air from the lungs meaning we want a gentle lift of the pelvic floor at the same time. As we inhale, the diaphragm moves down and out, allowing the lungs to ‘inflate’, so we want the pelvic floor and abdomen to relax too.
What do coughs and sneezes have in common?
They happen on the exhale of breath.
So couple that exhale and sneeze or cough with a gentle lift of the pelvic floor.
Transfer this knowledge to lifting something heavy – it could be putting your shopping in the car, lifting a child or lifting weights in the gym.
Often when we go to do this, we’ll hold our breath to create ‘strength’ and ‘stability’. This is a faulty approach* that massively increases pressure into your belly and pelvic floor.
As you exert to lift your ‘weight’, exhale and gently lift the pelvic floor. We’re then “exhaling on exertion”, co-ordinating the connection of our abdominal muscles and pelvic floor with that diaphragmatic movement.
They’re big words to say our core is working together like a piston, instead of bulging out like a balloon that’s about to pop.
I haven’t gone into detail on alignment in conjunction with that here but your ability to connect with your core will also be influenced by your alignment, as this changes the pressure through your abdomen, pelvic floor and spinal muscles.
Avoiding breath holding
Breath holding is a common strategy for many people. Some use it to create the stability they need to move and lift. Some use it as a stress response.
In either case, the result is the same.
- you cause an increase in pressure out into your abdominal wall and down into your pelvis
- often the shoulders go up as well, increasing tension in the lower back and neck
In my experience, people with chronic (long term, persisting) pain tend to hold their breath almost as if anticipating the pain they expect to come with their movement.
Now there is a time in weight/power lifting when a breath holding technique is required to protect your body and provide strength. Getting out of a chair, picking up your shopping and lifting a child are do not fall into this category!!!!
Working with your breath helps move away from this faulty mechanism for trying to create stability and move towards a cohesive approach, working with your whole body, improving your stability and strength.
Your breath is your life blood. You are breathing well now or you wouldn’t be reading this!!!!
So why does it make a difference?
It allows you to move mindfully, connect with your core, avoid embarrassing leakage, release tension and move more confidently.
Isn’t that worth it?
If you'd like to know more about improving your Core Strength, dealing with pelvic floor issues or any other elements raised in this article then please CLICK HERE to arrange a free laser Coaching Call.