Breathing Exercises to Move Better and Reduce Pain

No Pain Principle #2: Better Breathing = Better Movement

“If breathing is not normalized –  no other movement pattern can be.” – Karel Lewit

Throughout ALL GAIN, NO PAIN you’ll see the emphasis on breathing.  Breathing is cued in the Reset Exercises, Readiness Exercises, and even many of the strength training exercises contain cues of when to breathe. Without the emphasis on breathing, it becomes an exercise in futility to try to regain and then sustain normal, comfortable movement.

As you breathe, many of us are aware that our lungs draw are in and out, and you may even be aware that your muscles provide the rhythmic driving force to do so. Most would think that this process is limited to the chest where we can feel the movement most prominently.

Actually, as you breathe, the entire body moves through a repetitive cycle. Your pelvis moves which moves your hips, your shoulders move, and your head and neck move. We don’t really perceive it as it is subtle, and we’re used to it, but it does happen.

If for some reason, this gentle cycle of movement is restricted, so is the movement of your shoulders, hips, and neck in accordance with the degree that your breathing has become rigid or patterned.

Daily stress of just being a human in our world represents a powerful driver that our primitive brains respond to in immediate defense. Defense leads to our “human musculoskeletal stress pattern” as coined by Dunnington (see ALL GAIN, NO PAIN for reference). Breathing must adapt to the pattern and our powerful learning brain takes it from there to lock in these rigid patterns of breathing and movement as our norm. After all, from a survival standpoint, it’s much more important to continue to get enough air than it is to touch your toes.

Your brain is an air hog.

At about 2% of your body weight, it consumes about a 20% of the oxygen you breathe.

It will induce any strategy necessary to get that air. It will increase muscle tension (usually on the back side of your body) and even twist your body to one side to make sure it is satisfied. It does not care if you’re uncomfortable or limited in your movement. It just wants its share of air.

It won’t let you move into a position or posture where it cannot get enough air – at least for not very long or you’ll end up holding your breath to get there.

By building an effective breathing pattern during movement and exercise, we satisfy the brain’s desires AND teach the body to move effectively simultaneously. Over time, we learn to do both consistently and it sticks as our new normal.

Take your time as you learn to move air during exercise. Moving from normal inhalations to full exhalations as you perform progressively challenging exercises provides the full spectrum of breathing patterns as there is never one ideal way to breathe, there are many.

Lying on your back with your knees bent is an easy position to begin your breathing training process.  Below is an example of how the rib cage and abdomen expand uniformly during an inhalation through the nose and an exhalation through the mouth. Don’t worry about perfection. Just get better every day.


Get started on your pain-free comeback to the gym today

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