The cult of breathing correctly

Today I worked with a client exclusively on breathing and I realized she was asking me the same questions I get from almost everyone about breathing so I thought I’d address them here.

What’s the BEST way to breathe?

I’ve seen it in almost every book I’ve read, whether it is about the voice or the body…there is one way of breathing, as described in the book and that is the BEST WAY. Really? That to me creates a cult-like religion of breathing and I just am not down with that.

We can talk about a biomechanically optimal breath, and I do teach people what that is, because I believe it is valuable to know, but (you knew there was going to be a but, right?), that’s not my end goal in working on someone’s breath.

If your breathing is disordered, I’d like to help you find a breathing pattern that supports your body’s health. Sometimes that looks like addressing ribcage mobility. Sometimes that looks like changing the breath ratio. Sometimes that’s moving from mouth breathing to nose breathing. And, sometimes it’s all of the above plus a few other things.

If your pelvic floor is suffering, I want to teach you the ways in which your breath can impact the pelvic floor and help you find ways of breathing that support your movements so you no longer wet your pants when you sneeze.

If your goal is to sing your best or speak your best, my goal is to help you find a freedom to the breath so it responds to the emotion you are trying to communicate and contributes to the colors of the voice that reflect that emotion.

If your body is in pain, my goal is to help you optimize your breathing because that will both help lower your pain response, but a good exhale always facilitates better movement too.

 

Why is my breathing a mess?

Breathing is governed by the autonomic nervous system. That means as long as you are alive, your body is going to breathe. That also means when your nervous system is out of whack – due to stress – your breath is going to change. Sustained stress, means sustained breathing changes. However breath isn’t completely at the mercy of stress. The breath is actually our most efficient mechanism for shifting the nervous system.

Breathing is also reflexive, meaning we breathe in response to the way we move. If you aren’t moving much, your breathing isn’t being varied and it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of limited breathing.

 

How do I fix my breathing?

There is no one right way to ‘fix’ disordered breathing because there is no one right way to breathe. I want you to have the ability to breathe appropriately given the situations you encounter.  I usually start with a series of assessments of just breathing and breathing and movement to see where you might be running into breath blockers (bulging, bracing and bearing down) and from there, use a series of breathing practices that progress from simple to more complicated and work with breathing and movement to see how the two fit together. If we’re putting it together with the voice, we listen to sound and emotion and see how they’re working.

It takes time, awareness and practice, but there’s no need to subscribe to a cult of breathing where you think there’s just one way to breathe and that way will magically provide the answers to all your issues!

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