Thursday, September 8, 2011

Forget Breathing!

In the pursuit of perfection sometimes we start to take the basics for granted. We work on perfecting the snatch's second pull so often we fail to perfect the first pull. We work on linking kipping pullups so much that we neglect our dead hang pullup. We work so hard on simply getting the work done that all the while we forget to consider our breath.

Duh, breathing! It's important!

It was about June of this year when I really started to notice that I was always tired. I could get to work but would drag all day long and have to fight the fluttering eyelids for hours after lunch. It started to scare me, "do I have chronic fatigue? Am I not as healthy as I thought?" Only glitch was that my WOD times weren't failing and my lifts were all going up, which is NOT what I'd expect if I truly had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. So what was going on?

It was about this time that I went to go see a Rolfer for reasons completely unrelated to my fatigue.
*Side note: If you ever have a chance, go see a's amazing and will change your life!
Anyway, he asked what had brought me in ("I'm a CrossFitter and am starting to feel broken down and tight all over!) and I mentioned the fatigue kind of secondarily. After knowing me for only 20 minutes he said, "oh that's because you're not breathing right." Huh?!

He said that even at that moment I was breathing very shallowly, "through my scalenes," as he called it. My chest was rising as I breathed so I was not getting full breaths! He presumed that I had no energy during the day because of this but that as soon as I got to CrossFit I would start taking deep breaths again (added bonus of doing warm-ups). Of course this perfectly explained why I'd have energy during my workouts and afterwards as well.

I may have actually smacked myself in the forehead at this point.

So from my stupidity comes a lesson for you. If you are excessively tired don't immediately reach for the stimulants or search for the complicated solution. Go back to basics, breathe deep and see if you too were forgetting to breathe.

Dirga Pranayama, aka the Complete Breath or the 3 Part Breath

Sit at the edge of your chair or stand up. First practice breathing in each of the 3-Parts, then connect them into one flowing inhale and exhale for the Complete Breath.

1) Place both hands on your abdomen just near your belly button. Take a deep breath in so that just your belly expands. If you feel your hands move apart and your chest does not rise then you are doing this right. Do this three times.
2) Now place your hands on either side of your rib cage. Take a deep breath in so that just your rib cage expands. Try to expand your rib cage as much as you can with just your lungs. Again, isolate this to your rib cage. Your belly should not expand and your chest should not rise. Do this three times.

3) Now place your hands on your chest, just below the collar bone. Take a deep breath in so you feel your chest rise up into your hands. Do this three times.

Now in one breath try filling your lungs like a wave, starting from the bottom. Let the breath in to expand your belly, then your rib cage, then your chest.  As you exhale the wave retreats. First the chest falls, then the rib cage contracts, then the belly relaxes. This is the Dirga Pranayama, do this three to five times.

**Super Cool Bonus to practicing Dirga Pranayama: This style of deep breathing actually helps stretch the muscles between the ribs (called intercostal muscles) which will help to improve your lung capacity. Athletes like us can surely utilize some increased lung capacity right? 

This is doing yoga and the best part is that you can do this anywhere and at any time. I've done it in line at the grocery store, in my seat at the traffic light, at my desk at work and especially in between sets in a WOD.

Enjoy your new found energy!

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