In this series, I’m going to share some thoughts about the eight patterns that comprise the eight-week program that is Integre8t Wellness. With these fundamentals in place, you can expect to see enhanced results from your fitness plan. These concepts apply to all fitness and wellness programs, because they are the foundation upon which you will build your cathedral. You have to have that in place before you build the soaring walls and towers or add any of the stained glass windows.
The first, and therefore most essential pattern, is breath. You can survive weeks without food and days without water, but only minutes, or even seconds, without air. Most people generally take breathing for granted. But in those times when you are congested, sick or in someway obstructed, it certainly comes front and center. Rather than pay attention to your breath only when it’s short, learn to become aware of it as a tool that improves your wellness at every level.
Oxygen is essential for your body’s process of accessing and using energy. All cells in your body are like tiny furnaces, and you can ignite them to burn even more calories as you exercise. It makes perfect sense: Think about how a bellows makes a fire burn hotter. What happens if oxygen escaping a tank comes into contact with a spark? At the cellular level, something rather similar is happening.
With your cells’ nuclei are mitochondria — the bodies that use energy. By breathing purposefully, you allow more energy to be used (resulting in your body temperature going up — you are a flame enveloped in flesh!) and more waste products to be removed. But what is purposeful breathing?
Inhaling through your nose with an open throat while consciously pulling with strength from your diaphragm will create a sound like a wind tunnel in your head. This isn’t a hard, extended sniff that whistles in your nostril, but rather a deeper more powerful internal suction. You will find that breathing from your belly, rather than your chest will allow you to take powerful inhalation — it can often stimulate yawning or light headedness while you first get accustomed to it.
The opposite is to exhale through your mouth, again exerting slowly from your belly. The back of your throat will be relaxed and open, and a sound similar to a very slow motion cough will come out. In fact, that is a good way to figure out how to engage in exhaling — cough. Test this out. When you cough, you reflexively bare down within your core. This powerful, stabilizing force is the place from which you should breathe. Rather than your chest expanding and contracting, drop down and let your belly inflate and deflate like a balloon. This is how babies breathe. Watch one while s/he is sleeping.
Why is this helpful? For one, it helps to energize and cleanse the body. Secondly, it hones focus. Whether for meditation, exercise, mitigating stress or centering your thoughts or emotions, purposeful breathing improves the quality of whatever you are doing. Be particularly mindful of how breath can help when you are working out.
For conditioning, use the tempo of your breath to establish movement rhythm. Swimming, walking, jogging, biking and other forms of aerobic exercise (by definition) require lots of oxygen. Finding a breathing pattern will help you get through the workout and will magnify your results.
For strength, the rule of thumb is to inhale before you begin a repetition and to then exhale a moment after you begin the exertion. Going back to the image of fire: When you’re doing pushups, chest presses, squats and other exercises that require you to work upward away from gravity, imagine that you are a rocket ship. To take off, they blast fire down toward the ground, pushing the rocket up into the air. Use your breath in a similar manner. Exhale to move upward away from the ground. I just realized it’s a rather funny image, if you think about that while doing squats. : :
info: Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.