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Expert breathing help? [Aug. 25th, 2009|07:19 am]
Okay... so I've been exercising a lot more, for various and sundry reasons, and I think I've re-discovered how important proper breathing is.

For those of you who've never exercised, or thought through the matter, it goes like this: your muscles need lots of oxygen to create energy; they literally burn calories for energy (though it's not quite as flashy as when fire burns things for energy). Your heart and lungs are your great limiting factors... not enough oxygenated blood going to your muscles = muscles giving up because they can't handle the load.

Well, I have two problems. One, I don't think I've ever really practiced using my lungs well. I've taken deep breaths, and tried to engage my diaphragm and even the muscles at my sides that one Pilates book says is also helpful for breathing, but I've never really known what I was doing.

And, my posture isn't normally very good. I tend to slouch a bit. Without your lungs standing straight up and down, they haven't got the same capacity to expand vigorously.

Does anyone have any advice, or links, for improving one's breathing capacity? (We can skip the old 50s/60s era advice that suggests a few cigarettes might help.)

[User Picture]From: karenkay
2009-08-25 03:00 pm (UTC)
No concrete recommendations. But when I dislocated my shoulder, I realized where my first and second ribs are and how far up my lung go, so I deliberately try to breathe into my whole lung. Breathing into your back is good, too--most people just breathe into the front of their lungs.

One Pilates thing that I find amusing, which I guess is just a general meditation thing, is learning to breathe in and out of various body parts. Like, the back of your knee, your toes, your lower back. Of course, air doesn't really go in and out there, it just feels like it does.

Instead of worrying about your diaphragm, think about your ribcage expanding up and out when you inhale--when you exhale, your ribcage is still up and your core is engaged, so the exhale happens mostly below the ribcage.

I think posture is a process rather than a thing in itself; everyone has to work on it. But that's another essay.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-08-31 03:45 pm (UTC)
Well, the posture was more of a chance for someone to say "Oh, if you're having breathing problems, yes, you definitely want to correct posture first". I agree, it's a process - my whole body seems to be changing now that I'm doing core muscle exercises (not Pilates, but hips and various abdominals)
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2009-08-31 03:54 pm (UTC)
One convenient thing is that your ribcage can't expand up and out if you're slumped.:)
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[User Picture]From: griffen
2009-08-25 03:13 pm (UTC)
Take a singing class, or a few singing lessons. Professional singers know how to breathe, and they know how to make the most of every scrap of air.

That's why I'm never gasping for breath when I work out. I'm breathing deeply, huffing a bit, but never gasping - because I'm a singer and I know how to breathe, and have since childhood.

There are advantages to growing up in a house with two professional musicians in it. :D
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-08-31 03:45 pm (UTC)
I might need to do that. I'm doing more drumming circles and I like to tone during them... it'd be nice if people liked me toning during them, too :-).
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[User Picture]From: shiroken
2009-08-25 03:24 pm (UTC)
I strongly recommend getting into zen meditation and breathing. I've been doing it for many years of martial arts training, and it's the best thing in the world. It's especially effective for adjusting and regulating the heartbeat and flow of oxygen.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-08-31 03:46 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a good idea - I think it mixes well with what phoenixpdf mentions - once you teach your body to do it, it'll start doing it more on its own.
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[User Picture]From: essaying
2009-08-25 03:49 pm (UTC)
Pot works just as well as cigarettes -- E has 120% normal lung capacity for a man his age ;)

Most of what I know about breathing I learned in tantra, FWIW.
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[User Picture]From: susandennis
2009-08-25 05:35 pm (UTC)
I would love to know the same thing! I actually am not sure I ever connected the dots until I read this entry. Wild. Thank you.

Off to google breathing.
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[User Picture]From: phoenixpdx
2009-08-25 08:22 pm (UTC)
Here's what I've learned as a singer, and as a person with diminished structural lung capacity due to the scoliosis (and diminished muscle function due to the polio). (Which is to say, I've had to figure out how to use it all more effectively.)

1. All during the day whenever you think of it, and at several set times during the day such as before each meal: pretend there is a string coming out of the top of your head and there is someone Very Strong pulling on it. This should line things up physically to maximize lung capacity. Eventually you'll start standing and sitting this way without thinking about it...it's still good to do it deliberately on a regular basis.

2. Whenever you think of it and especially when you're exercising, your belly button goes out when you breathe in. Way out. And comes back in when you breathe out. Your lower ribs (front, sides & back) spread out when you breathe in, and come back in when you breathe out. Think of making a large open space between your bottom ribs and your pelvis.

3. Breathe "bottom up." Fill that big open space, then the upper part of your lungs. Try not to raise your shoulders, though. They really aren't involved.

Actually, if you spend a few minutes several times a day just mindfully doing these things, you should find a lot more capacity. The autonomic stuff takes over pretty quickly.
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[User Picture]From: kightp
2009-08-25 11:02 pm (UTC)
What she said (those are pretty much the same techniques stage actors are trained to use for maximum vocal projection and power).

When I was taking Pilates, I found that being accustomed to using my diaphragm for breathing was also useful in understanding the whole concept of working the core muscles...
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[User Picture]From: laura_alive
2009-09-26 06:17 am (UTC)
You forgot to mention the oxidative phosphorylation!!!!!! One of my favorite things!

And the best way to increase it is to use it. Do lots of cardio, and your VO2 max will increase. But know it is not infinite, no matter what you do.

ExSci student returning to her books now....
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-09-28 04:23 pm (UTC)
Okay... you either already know this, or I'm going to ruin your day.

"Oxidative phosphorylation" scans to "My Favorite Things". (I don't know any other technical terms or terms of the art, or I'd be all over this.)
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