Today we’re going to follow up on last week’s blog about respiration with three basic drills to get you started.
In last week’s blog we talked about trying to identify if breathing or respiration training should be a key part of what you do on a daily basis. Last week we talked about three different principles: Respiratory Habits, Respiratory Bio-mechanics, and Respiratory Biochemistry. I asked you to pay attention over the last week to how to you breathe normally. Do you breathe through your nose all the time?
Do you breathe through your mouth all the time? I offered you something also called the functional inhale-exhale test where you breathe in through your nose as long as possible and breathe out as long as possible and you time that. We talked about some different ideas as well, what’s called the Nijmegen Questionnaire in last week’s blog. If you didn’t watch that one you should go back and check it out.
In our system, because we talk so much about brains and we talk about brains needing two things to stay alive, fuel and activation. Respiration training is a key part of a lot of what we do with many people. Not everyone needs it because a lot of people are good breathers naturally, but if you have an issue with your breathing based off history or whatever we see in an assessment we are going to get you started on some basic drills.
Today what I want to do is cover some really basic ideas to get you started with respiration training and then next week we’ll amp it up a little bit.
Our very first concept that I want to look at is just what we call pursed-lip breathing. This is a simple idea where you are going to breathe in through the nose and then you are going to breathe out through the mouth but you are going to imagine that you are going to breathe out through a straw. What we found is that if giving people pursed-lip or straw on the exhale helps them control their breathing.
What I want you to understand about our approach is we want to focus on respiratory competency. Meaning I want you to be great at breathing in through your nose, in through your mouth, out through your nose, out through your mouth because we need to be able to do all of them and we want to be able to abdominal breathe, we want to be able to chest breathe. It just depends on the context.
This is a starting drill because one of things that you have to understand is that you are going to breathe 20, 25,000 times a day, maybe, and most of those breaths are very unconscious. The first thing that you have to do to improve your respiration is make breathing a conscious decision for a little while.
The basic drill that we give our clients is this pursed-lip breathing drill or straw breathing. It is a breath based on a ratio of one to two. What I normally have people start with is a two second inhale through the nose. Comfortable. And then a four second exhale through the pursed-lip. Then pause. At the end of the exhale there is what is called a natural respiratory pause for most people. It’s going to last 2-3 seconds. You are going to breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth, pause and then repeat that.
This is a drill that we try to get people to focus on doing 30 breaths, twice a day. Really simple idea. Do it at work. Do it at home. Again, two seconds in, four seconds out, pause at the end for 2-3 seconds and repeat. If the ratio feels like you can extend it where you can go in for two and out for six, or eight, or longer, you can also work on that.
The idea isn’t to do this for two or three breaths and see how you do. The idea is to maintain control of your respiration throughout those 30 breaths so at the end of those 30 you feel calm and relaxed and not stressed out by paying attention to your breathing.
That’s step one. If you can work on that this week, the following week, which you would actually get started with is doing that same exercise while walking. It’s a simple idea where you would start taking a walk, you are going to breathe in for the first two steps through your nose, and then out for four steps.
Then you’ll take two more steps on the pause and you would continue that process. A five minute walk focusing on that little respiration sequence can be incredibly useful for relaxing you, getting rid of some muscle tension and bringing awareness to your breathing and bringing some level of respiratory awareness.
The third step, once you’ve started to do the walking and you’re getting comfortable with that, is to actually do that same exercise while doing something a little more physical. Maybe doing push ups or squats, or something that would be more strenuous. The cool part about doing this while exercising or doing something a little more difficult for you physically, it’s really going to challenge you to work on your control and not worry so much about what’s going on if I’m starting to feel air hunger.
That’s a big part of starting to learn stamina and endurance because breathlessness and the inability to breathe is a really common initiator of general fatigue.
So to recap this whole concept. First thing I’m going to have you do in a seated comfortable position, I want you to work on doing 30 breaths twice a day using a nasal inhale and a straw-breathing or pursed-lip exhale. Two seconds in through the nose, four seconds out through the mouth, pause 2-3 seconds and repeat. Really super simple, nothing complicated about it.
Once that’s starting to be comfortable and you can do the 30 breaths and feel relaxed at the end I want you to transition that into walking where you are taking two steps in on the inhale, four steps out on the exhale, two more steps on the pause and again, repeat. Try to work up to about five minutes of that.
Once that becomes easy and comfortable you can either begin extending the time that you practice your respiration during walking or you can transition into doing the same pursed-lip breathing sequence during push ups or squats or some kind of other more physical activity working on your respiratory control.
These are our starting basic drills for people. It can take anywhere from a few days up to a few months just to get comfortable with these so don’t rush it. Make sure that you feel good at the end. The whole goal of working on respiration is to make yourself feel better, move better, and perform better.
If you have any questions about this, please let me know.
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