In Move, Train, Nourish; The Sustainable Way To A Healthier You, DOMINIC MUNNELLY and GRÁINNE PARKER aim to change MISGUIDED PERCEPTIONS that LIVING HEALTHILY means sacrifice, and INSPIRE PEOPLE to live fitter, healthier and happier lives. In this excerpt they discuss the importance of breathing properly …
We all know the power of eating right towards helping us look and feel our best, but one of the most undervalued practices, and one which we can develop daily, is to learn how to use our breath to help relieve stress and to help prevent injuries.
Very few people know how to breathe correctly. Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘But I’m breathing ALL the time, so I wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t doing it right!’ Of course, you’re going to be breathing but we want you to breathe efficiently so you can benefit from both its calming and bracing effects.
When you breathe, you should be using your diaphragm, the big dome-shaped muscle below the ribcage. How to test if you are using your diaphragm is to lie on your back with your feet against a wall or up on a bench/chair with the knees at a 90-degree angle. From there, take a big breath in and notice if your stomach moves out first or is it your chest that moves first? Your stomach should move out first! Deep diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes muscles and allows more oxygen to flow throughout the body. Think of it as calming, rather than constantly breathing into your chest, which is panic breathing and serves to tighten and stress your body. If you need evidence of perfect breathing, then look no further than a baby as they take big full-belly breaths.
To help our clients learn how to breathe right we ask them to practise this drill with a small weight or book on their belly to ensure that, when they take a breath, the weight moves up and down and, most importantly, the breath starts in the belly and moves upwards towards the chest, NOT the other way around. Neck and shoulder tension is exacerbated by excessive and stressful chest breathing.
We don’t need to make this into a religious experience with a special sequence to follow: simply inhale on a 5-second count, feel your belly pressing out for 3–5 seconds, then exhale on a 5-second count and repeat for 10–20 breaths. Perform daily – this is the perfect practice to follow when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. If you want to get more out of your training and experience some much-needed stress relief, then you absolutely must learn how to develop the power of your breath so you can return to your very nature to breathe right, like you did when you were just a little toddler.
Move, Train, Nourish: The Sustainable Way to a Healthier You by Dominic Munnelly and Gráinne Parker (€19.99) is available in Easons and all major bookstores.
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