Has a friend ever asked you what superpower you would like to have? I know mine have. The common responses from my friends and people I know are something along the lines of being able to fly, the ability to become invisible or having incredible strength. They all sound cool, right?
But what if I told you that you already possess a superpower? What if I told you that this superpower can improve your sleep, increase your strength, and elevate your athletic performance? Would you believe me if I said that same superpower can improve your concentration, increase your productivity with school or work and reduce feelings of anxiousness or anxiety? Turns out, you have had this superpower your entire life. Breathing.
Breathing is fundamental to life. You can breathe up to and more than 25,000 times a day. You can go days without water, weeks without food but only a few minutes without breathing. Thanks to evolution, our brain has evolved in a way that allows us to breath automatically. However, this automaticity of breathing poses an intriguing question. What makes breathing so fundamentally important to learn about and how is it truly a superpower?
Unfortunately, within the last few hundred years, society has changed. We no longer spend as much time outside, we have more sedentary and stressful jobs, we eat foods that require less effort to chew and overall, we have a drastically reduced activity level compared or our ancestors. These factors, plus a few more, lead us to alter the way we breath and reduce the efficiency of how we do it naturally.
How should we breathe naturally? Through your nose and “diaphragmatically”. What does this mean? It means when you breath in (inhale) and breath out (exhale) the most efficient way to do so is by placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth and breathing through the nose, whilst expanding around your abdomen in a full 360° (see diagram). As you breath, you should allow it to slowly work up into your chest. For your day-to-day activities, such as being at work, school or in the gym, this is the most optimal, efficient way to breath.
The reason it is the most efficient way to breath is as follows:
- The natural resting position of the tongue is on the roof of your mouth. This encourages you to breathe through your nose. Additionally, during a child’s development, it encourages proper windpipe development which can affect oxygen uptake and therefore athletic performance.
- Nasal breathing increases the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of your nervous system known as the “rest and digest” side. This encourages a positive neurochemical balance in your brain which promotes concentration, improved decision making and can help reduce feelings of anxiousness or anxiety.
- Diaphragmatically breathing is preferred to “chest” breathing (also known as apical breathing) for a few reasons. One of the most important is that it increases your intra-abdominal pressure and in conjunction, helps you to utilise your abdominal muscles. When these muscles work together, you enhance your movement capacity and athletic potential.
So now you know that you possess a natural superpower, this officially makes you a superhuman! You can start today by practicing the above and seeing how it feels. Like anything, it can take time and guidance to know what best suits you. There are endless possibilities with where you can take your own breath and breathing practice. Breathing is fundamental to life and the more you enhance your breath, the more you will elevate your life.
- Oxygen Advantage by Patrick Mckeown
- Breath by James Nestor
- Breath to Perform by David Bidler
- Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life by George Caitlin
- Just Breath by Dan Brule