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DON’T BRACE BEFORE YOU BREATHE by Paluna Santamaria.
This article is the first one of a short series on breathing.
As lifters we tend to put a big emphasis on bracing for better spine stability but we rarely address the fact that many of us have faulty breathing patterns due to postural issues or injury.
Breathing and bracing is not the same thing so let’s start by defining the functions of our main breathing muscle, the diaphragm:
- Respiration: inhalation and exhalation of air.
- Stabilization: integration of all abdominal muscles/pelvic floor and diaphragm working together to create a base of support.
The first step to identifying faulty breathing patterns is by assessing your posture.
No one will have perfect posture all the time but you can definitely aim for a neutral spine.
Neutral spine is when the cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves in the spine are in their natural position.
When you lie on your back with the soles of your feet flat on the ground and your arms resting at the sides there should be a bit of space between the back of your neck and the ground as well as between your lower back and the ground.
Your shoulder blades should feel wide, flat and heavy.
This is the best way to test your neutral spine and to start identifying your breathing patterns because gravity allows you to fully relax into the position.
Without a neutral spine they’ll be no efficient breathing and in consequence no efficient bracing.
Before we even worry about bracing let me list the benefits of adding breath work to your practice:
- Reduce anxiety/elevate mood
- Increase mental focus
- Aid digestion
- Eliminate oxidative stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Aid sleep
So this week I encourage you to bring awareness to your breathing by doing the following:
- Be aware of your patterns: are you holding your breath randomly through the day? Is your mouth fully closed when you breathe? Do you snore?
- Take 5-10 anatomical breaths before you sleep. Don’t over think it, simply lie on your bed, take a breath through the nose allowing your ribcage to expand in all directions, letting your belly naturally and gently rise and exhale through the nose or mouth as slow as you can.
Next week, we will introduce specific exercises to help you become more efficient at anatomical breathing before we address bracing!