So today’s post was inspired by last week’s Karate Kid marathon. I realize coming out as a Karate Kid fan dates me, but I’m okay with that! I just want to bring some attention to a dialogue between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel in the beginning of Karate Kid II :
Daniel: Because my whole life is goin’ out of focus, that’s why.
Mr. Miyagi: When you feel life out of focus…always return to basic of life.
Daniel: What, praying?
Mr. Miyagi: Breathing. No breath, no life.
Then they continue to do some breath work that ultimately brings Daniel down and refocuses him. I didn’t get this when I was a kid but it really resonated with me now as an adult. The primary role of breathing is gas exchange: our cells need oxygen and their waste product, carbon dioxide, needs to be expelled. Breathing is an automatic body function, controlled by the respiratory centre of the brain. However, we can also deliberately change our rate of breathing. Scientific studies have shown that correct breathing can help manage stress and stress-related conditions by soothing the autonomic nervous system. Without getting too technical, it is often said that shallow upper chest breathing is typical of a stress response (which can be switched off by consciously breathing with the diaphragm) and that abdominal breathing plugs into the autonomic nervous system and encourages it to relax. I’m going to suggest a different way of thinking about breath that I learned in November in Leslie Kaminoff’s “Breath and Anatomy” workshop.
Leslie often talks about breathing as the “shape change” of your cavity. Healthy breathing is adaptable breathing; it’s about gaining more freedom in your breathing mechanism. On the inhale the volume in the chest cavity increases, not the belly. So let’s try something different today, follow these cues:
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Roll your shoulders back, inhale and lift the sternum (creating length in your spine)
- Place your hands on your rib cage
- Slowly inhaling through the nose, focus on your lungs filling up with air and your ribcage moving
- Slowly exhaling through your nose, notice your rib cage moving
- Repeat as long as you’d like to
How do you feel after? More relaxed and focused? Mr. Miyagi is a wise man full of much wisdom and inspiration. If you’ve never watched Karate Kid, you should probably get on that! Happy breathing everyone.